Bronze wolf statue gifted to Cincinnati from Rome during Mussolini's reign has been stolen
A bronze statue of a wolf — a gift from the city of Rome to Cincinnati during the 1930s when dictator Benito Mussolini was in power — has been stolen from Eden Park.
Cincinnati Parks spokesman Rocky Merz says a park visitor reported the missing statue early Friday morning.
"What they discovered is that — the statue is a large bronze statue of a wolf — somebody had cut the wolf off at the paws and removed the entire bronze section," Merz reports.
The Capitoline Wolf statue depicts the she-wolf nursing the Roman mythological twins Romulus and Remus. It stands on a granite and marble base inscribed "Il Governatore di Roma, alla Citta di Cincinnati, ANNO X," roughly translated as "from the governor of Rome to the city of Cincinnati in the 10th year of Mussolini's time in power."
It's an exact replica of Lupa Capitolina at the Musei Capitolini in Rome.
"It's honestly hard to put a value on something that's so historical and specifically significant to the city," Merz says. "This was gifted to the city of Cincinnati by the city of Rome in 1931. Beyond material costs and those sorts of things, it's really hard to establish value. That being said, for insurance purposes we are working with in-house and other local experts to determine the value."
Merz would not speculate on if the statue may have been taken for purposes other than being sold for the value of the metal.
Several years ago, the statue was the center of some controversy in Cincinnati because of its ties to Mussolini. Then-City Council member Chris Seelbach raised the idea of removing the statue from the Twin Lakes area of Eden Park after a 2015 report in the Cincinnati Enquirer.
"Statues from the monster that was Benito Mussolini don't belong in our parks," Seelbach wrote in 2020 tweet responding to the newspaper article. "Museums? Maybe. But not Cincinnati parks."
Ultimately the controversy ebbed and the statue remained in place — until Friday, when it was discovered severed at the paws.
Mary Anne Bressler of Cincinnati's Madisonville neighborhood was visiting the park Friday morning with her grandkids. They stopped to inspect the four lone paws and the pair of figurines. She says she's been walking past the statue for most of her life.
"It's such a historic Cincinnati landmark and it's just kind of shocking to walk up and see it severed apart and the wolf gone," she said. "It just seems surprising... I know there's controversy about the whole thing, but ... I hadn't heard anything recently."
Cincinnati Parks is requesting anyone with information about the theft contact Cincinnati Police.
"The fact of the matter is we have significant pieces of art throughout our (park) system that are there for the public to enjoy, to learn from, to study — and the fact that anybody would attempt to damage or remove a piece of public art that's really there for the general public is appalling," Merz concludes. "Whether it be in Eden Park or any of our parks or any parks around the country. It's just unfortunate, and it's unacceptable."