Paris sends Rome missing finger from the giant statue of the Roman emperor

Capitoline Museum’s remounts finger on the ancient bronze hand of Constantine after 500 years.

Rome’s colossal bronze hand of Roman emperor Constantine has had its index finger remounted after the missing fragment was sent from the Louvre in Paris.

The news, announced by Rome mayor Virginia Raggi on 29 April, follows the “fruitful” collaboration of the Parisian museum where the section of the bronze finger was rediscovered in 2018.

The 38cm-long piece, in the collection of the Louvre since 1860, was revealed to be the upper part of an index finger after being mistakenly listed as a toe.

The discovery was made by Aurelia Azema, who studied the object for her doctorate on ancient welding techniques for large bronze statues, reported by The Art Newspaper.

Azema correctly surmised that the “toe” was, in fact, Constantine’s missing finger and, when a 3D replica was sent to the Capitoline Museums, it turned out to be a perfect fit.

In addition to the bronze hand, the museums house a giant head, a sphere, and a left forearm from the statue of Constantine, which measured 12 metres high and dates to the early fourth century.

These fragments were kept in the Pope’s collection at the Lateran Palace before Pope Sixtus IV gave them to the Capitoline Museums in 1471 and other bronzes, including the she-wolf.

It is unknown how the bronze finger subsequently came into the hands of the 19th-century Italian art collector Marquis Giampietro Campana before making its way to the Louvre in 1860.

The long-lost finger has now been reunited with the hand using a “non-invasive” procedure, the museum’s director Claudio Parisi Presicce told Rome newspaper Il Messaggero.

Photo Il Messaggero

The return of the finger is believed to be part of a “long-term, multi-year loan,” according to the Italian news agency ANSA.

Mayor Raggi said the hand, reassembled after almost 500 years, was a beautiful way to mark the reopening of the city’s museums, following their extended closure due to Italy’s covid-19 restrictions.

The Capitoline Museums can be visited seven days a week, with online booking mandatory, at least a day in advance for weekend visits. See the website for full visiting information. Cover photo Radio Colonna.