The Fountain of January, at the heart of winter
In his “Canzone dei dodici mesi”, singer-songwriter Francesco Guccini says, “Viene Gennaio silenzioso e lieve, / un fiume addormentato / fra le cui rive giace come neve / il mio corpo malato, il mio corpo malato. / Sono distese lungo la pianura / bianche file di campi, / son come amanti dopo l’avventura, / neri alberi stanchi, neri alberi stanchi.” (Here comes January, quiet and light, / a sleepy river / in between whose banks, like snow / my ailing body, my ailing body lies. / Rows of white fields / rest along the plain, / like lovers after the adventure, / black tired trees, black tired trees.)
On our calendars, January opens the door to the new year (the name “January” comes from the Latin “Ianuarius”, meaning “of Janus”, the Roman god of doors and change). Yet Guccini’s lyrics suggest the idea of something still and immutable, frozen by tedium, illness, and death.
A coldness that does not spare the bronze giant sculpted by Bartolomeo Ammannati (1511-1592) between 1563 and 1565, for the park of Villa di Castello, in Florence. At the center of a quadrangular fountain, this muscular man crouches on a rock, his eyes staring in the middle distance, as if he were lost in the woods. He tries to protect himself with his own arms, in vain.
January’s door, in Ammannati’s vision, is still frozen shut.