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The New Goddess of Polizzi Generosa enjoys a Full House

Posted by Suzanne Turrisi on 21 Sep 2018

A goddess and a sculptor at work 

Over the past months the passionate and enquiring Australian Sicilian artist, Eolo Paul Bottaro worked in his ‘open door’ two room studio on Polizzi Generosa’s main street, high in Sicily’s Madonie Mountains.

He was creating a life sized, three faced, one body sculpture inspired by a picture of a ‘curious’ 18th century engraving of an almost mythical Polizzi Generosa statue, 'Iside', destroyed long ago.

The  original 'Iside', thought to be either that of the goddesses Minerva or Isis , had three faces depicted: one of a child, one of a young woman and the third of an old, bearded man.

Intrigued after spotting the picture in Polizzi’s archaeological museum Eolo was motivated - with respect for the people's documented 'Iside' story (in the form of an art protest- written in 1775) - to sculpt a new and vibrant 'Iside'.


The magic of a goddess 

Eolo's months of commitment, openess and creative energy caused a liveliness in the village and a new interest in the story of the lost Iside'.

The local children often called by his via Garibaldi studio to take a look and chat and Eolo encouraged them to make their own tiny versions of 'Iside'.

Local artisans were also inspired by Eolo and his 'Iside' goddess to drop in and create -sculptures, paintings, jewellery and poetry.


An ancient goddess challenged

As already mentioned the destroyed old statue was thought to be that of the pagan Egyptian goddess Isis or even Minerva .

And, as Emilia Maggio (see below) notes some Polizzi notables wrote the surviving art protest which included a description of the statue, calling it 'the most ancient marble statue of Isis Minerva' four years after it was ordered smashed - destroyed in a moment of said church fury- in the late 18th century. 

The statue’s long held Isis /Minerva origins have recently been challenged in a detailed paper, “Undoing the Myth of the Polizzi ‘Iside’ ” ( ) by Emilia Maggio, a Palermo based researcher, language consultant and translator.

Emilia says that she has not found any direct comparison between ancient known representaions of either goddess (Isis or MInerva) and the Polizzi 'Iside' statue.

She questions the origins of the old statue and argues that it was very likely one of the medieval virtue Prudence. Which, she notes, was often portrayed with three 'differently aged' faces, holding snakes, a mirror, at times a sieve, books, and in one work a face was even bearded - of which the attributes of snakes, three 'differently aged' faces (one bearded) and a mirror or sieve are found in the engraving of the lost Polizzi 'Iside' .


A night of celebration: a new goddess unveiled

Regardless of all this intrigue, on a summery night in early August, Eolo’s ‘Iside’, with one of the three faces (that of the young woman) draped with a delicate triangular shaped floral silver necklace, (inspired by the four petal flower carved on the forehead of the young woman in the 18th century 'Iside' engraving) was officially unveiled in Polizzi to a packed house in the auditorium of San Francesco - just up from the town’s main church, La Chiesa Madre.

It was the Chiesa Madre where the original statue is said to have stood, before its violent end, supporting a baptismal font, from around 1620 -1764.

And, later that August evening the people took a closer look at Eolo’s ‘Iside’ after the viewing of a short film, (the teaser trailer only here)  directed by Claudio Ceino and produced by Eolo, which documents the long held notions and new questioning of the Polizzi 'Iside' story and Eolo’s months of intense work, and the presentation of Emilia’s research paper.

That night people stood outside in the open night air unable to find a seat. And apparently, after the crowd left the auditorium and wandered to the main street a local man was heard to say, "to us, she is still 'Iside'. 


The goddess of Polizzi

Whether the original statue, seen in the picture of the 1720 engraving, and destroyed, was a depiction of Prudence the people's sheer joy and interest that evening was felt. 

For now Eolo’s ‘Iside’ is housed in the garage of The Sicilian House, fronting Polizzi’s main street, awaiting news of a permanent home. 

And during the weeks of mid- August summer festivities, I heard that the doors of the garage were opened and people came in to look at Polizzi's new goddess and photograph her.






A Few Notes:

1. Emilia Maggio’s article, “Undoing the Myth of Polizzi’s Iside’ will be on line next month. I will hyperlink Emilia’s article on this blog once her article is live.

2. Photo Credits: The 2nd, 5th, 10th and 11th photos are courtesy of the artist Eolo Paul Bottaro 

3. The first photo is from Emila Maggio's article and the word 'curious' and the quote 'the most ancient marble statue of Isis Minerva' are found in Emilia's article.

4. The final version of Claudio Ceino's film will be linked when possible.

5. The Sicilian House is pleased to have been a co sponsor of Eolo's work.

6. 25/2/2019 Eolo's Iside is now housed in Polizzi's Archaelogical Museum


Edited 25 & 26/9/18  In the section titled,  "An Ancient Goddess is Challenged" the word 'books' and 'differently aged' have been added to Prudence's attributes and the sentence 'attributes found in the engraving of the lost Polizzi 'Iside'  has now been altered to read as now seen. 

27/9/18  The date of the art protest has been added in the last sentence in the first paragraph 

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