The fountain of the Babuino (Baboon), so renamed by the Roman people because of its ugliness recalling the figure of a monkey in the statue above the basin, was originally a "semi-public" fountain, that means built at the expense of a private, the merchant Alessandro Grandi from Ferrara, but intended for public use. This name soon became so popular to lead to the change of the name of the street opened by Pope Clement VII Medici (1523-1534) and called via Clementina in his honor.
Built around 1576, the fountain consisted of a Roman era basin in gray granite where a simple tube poured water into and where was placed a life-size statue sculpted in tuff on depicting a Silenus lying on a cliff. Alessandro Grandi had it placed inside a niche on the main façade of his building. The palace passed to the Boncompagni-Ludovisi family in the seventeenth century who in 1738 provided for its complete renovation. The fountain was then moved to the left (at number 49a) and inserted in a frame similar to the previous one, delimited by two pilasters and an architrave decorated with two travertine dolphins.
In 1877, due to the works for the construction of the sewer system, the fountain was dismembered: the statue of Silenus was placed in the courtyard of Palazzo Boncompagni, while the basin replaced the fountain of the drinking trough in via Flaminia, in front of the fountain of Giulio III (1550-1555). Finally, in 1957, the Babuino was reassembled near the original site, but on the opposite side of the road, to the left of the church of Sant’Atanasio dei Greci.
The statue of Silenus (ancient, but with non-pertinent head) has also been identified with the Sabine god Sanco Fidio Semicapro. In popular tradition the statue became part of the group of "talking statues" (together with Pasquino, Marforio, Madama Lucrezia and Abate Luigi) which constituted the "congress of the witty", where the anonymous complaints of the Romans, known as pasquinades, were usually posted on.
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