The Owl Game
Bartolomeo Rossi, Fabrizio Farina, Giovanni Battista Capezzuoli (documented in 1755-1800)
The sculptural group of the The Owl Game (Gioco della Civetta) is located in the Boboli Gardens in front of the Caramogi group by Romolo Ferrucci del Tadda, and consists of two white marble statues depicting two youngsters while playing. The aim of this game was to take the hat off to the other player who, in order to try to escape, had to bend over continuously (in Italian 'fare civetta'). Therefore, one character is outstretched to grab the hat, while the other is attempting to deftly dodge the opponent's move. The jacket of one of the two players is unbuttoned, precisely because of the abrupt movement that he makes by throwing himself backwards, and both figures are supported by tree stumps. The Owl Game was originally commissioned to a sculptor known as 'Matteo scultore' in 1618 and its execution, which lasted for several years, was completed by different artists. The modelling was probably done by Orazio Mochi, who took inspiration from Giambologna's Uccellatori. The statues were then sculpted by Romolo Ferrucci del Tadda, who left the group unfinished at his death, missing one figure. After various assignments, the work was finally completed by Bartolomeo Rossi in 1622. Unfortunately, The Owl Game in stone deteriorated quickly and got destroyed.
In 1775, Grand Duke Peter Leopold entrusted sculptor Giovanni Battista Capezzuoli with the task of remaking the work and the artist decided to sculpt it out of white marble instead of bigia stone. From the panel of the Giuochi rusticali (Rustic games) made by Vascellini in 1788, the group appeared to be consisting of three figures, while only two figures have survived to present days. When looking at the 18th-century replica, it is no longer possible to distinguish the hands of the various sculptors who worked on the original group in stone: Pizzorusso (1989) attributes the original of the figure on the left to Bartolomeo Rossi and the one on the right to Romolo Ferrucci del Tadda. The realisation in marble of the original group diluted the stylistic features of previous artists. The copyist was inspired by 16th-century representations of 'peasants', relying on the narrative and playful style that was typical of 17th-century genre painting.
F. Gurrieri, J. Chatfield, Boboli Gardens, Firenze, 1971, p. 53; L. M. Medri, Le statue di genere nel giardino di Boboli, in La Reggia Rivelata, catalogo della mostra (Firenze, 7 dicembre 2003 – 31 maggio 2004), a cura di A. Farà e D. Heikamp, Firenze, 2003, p. 191; A. Griffo, Buffoni, villani e giocatori. Un itinerario attraverso il Giardino di Boboli, in Buffoni, villani e giocatori alla corte dei Medici, catalogo della mostra (Firenze, Gallerie degli Uffizi, Andito degli Angiolini e Museo del Giardino di Boboli 19 maggio – 11 settembre 2017), a cura di A. Bisceglia, S. Mammana, M. Ceriana, Livorno, p. 148; L. M. Medri, Il Giardino di Boboli, Milano, 2003; G. Capecchi, Cosimo II e le arti di Boboli, Firenze, 2008, p. 23; C. Pizzorusso, A Boboli e altrove, sculture e scultori fiorentini del Seicento, Firenze 1989, p. 75-76.