For forty years, a statue pointed at nothing, with nothing. Just an archer silhouetted towards the towers of the flamboyant Gothic cathedral, his arms retracted just before he released his muscles. A perfect flex. Except for one detail: the bow and date were missing.
The work was made in 1924, but it was not placed in the square until 1970. Barely a year after its inauguration, someone ventured out one night and stripped it of the gun and its projectile.. And so it remained until 2021, when only the bow was replaced. Coincidentally, it was on October 17, and a few meters from “El descamisado”, a monument that was erected in 2017 with busts of Perón and Evita. Just six blocks from there, on Calle 60, another October 17, 1945, the columns of cold storage workers from Berisso, the “Kilometer Zero” of Peronist mythology, had descended in the direction of Plaza de Mayo.
Even without a bow and without an arrow, that green archer for copper sulphate aroused innumerable legends. A sculpture almost hidden in a corner of Plaza Moreno, the founding esplanade of La Plata, which on November 19 will celebrate (the site, but also the city) 140 years since its foundation. With eight hectares, it is one of the largest in Argentina. And there coexist statues of Raúl Alfonsín and Mariano Moreno, vases with fauns and the representation of the Four Seasons in cast iron. Among them is winter, which he rhymes with hell and raises his left hand simulating horns. Opposite, the cathedral. And in the middle, all the myths about the tension between the original Freemasonry and the curia empowered in the invented capital of Buenos Aires after the federalization of the city of Buenos Aires.
It all started in my head Troiano Troiani, an Italian who studied at several academies in Europe before the Argentine government hired him in 1910 through a scholarship for foreign artists. Among the most seen interventions of his are the numerous lanterns of the Plaza de los Dos Congresos, in Buenos Aires. He also made everything from bas-reliefs and portraits to funeral medals and plaques. But there was one work that obsessed him: the Archer Hercules by Frenchman Émile Antoine Bourdelle, a favorite student of the father of modern sculpture Auguste Rodin. A supreme combination between mythological Greece and the Belle Époque prior to the First World War that had several copies, one of them in the Plaza Dante in Recoleta.
As many times, the cover surpassed the original. While the argent version of Bourdelle’s Archer Hercules lies almost unnoticed in Recoleta, the Divine Archer of Troiani was accumulating as much analysis as rains, winds, graffiti, graffiti and bird defections. What does that sculpture mean to us, as it was placed? A focused and defiant face, arched eyebrows, closed mouth, contracted muscles, veins and tendons taut as steel. The moment before the explosion.
The work generated a lot of analysis, research and academic theses. And the legend indicates that there were many efforts so that, even without having a bow and arrow, the profile of the archer is twisted, so that he does not continue aiming at the towers and rose windows of the Platense cathedral. Some argue that his weapon does not metaphorize an anticlerical message, but actually represents Cupid’s romantic intentions. Others, on the other hand, point out that the projectile is slanted upwards, figuring the desire to reach the highest ambitions of the spirit. Just in case, two trees were planted between the sculpture and the temple, blocking with their leafy tops the potential course of the arrow.
It is curious that the sculpture was placed just 45 years after its invoice, when the Municipality of La Plata bought the piece. But the main mystery goes beyond that: it was never clear if Troiano Troiani was specified the purpose of his work, or if the artist from Udine simply gave up on including Bourdelle’s creation in the stock. When they placed the baptized statue The Divine Archer in Plaza Moreno pointing to one of the rose windows of the cathedral of La Plata, Troiani had already died. He passed away in 1963, in Buenos Aires. And he could never see the final destination of his work.
The sculpture is magnetic from any of the observable angles. There will always be an eerie harmony between the material and the many triangles that contain its parts. Tying the imagination of an arrow that is still felt in its absence, the archer stops at a very brief and unrepeatable moment: the final contraction before discharge. Strength and cunning. Nerves and expertise. All possible concentration at the service of a daring. And a single shot to glory… or vanish into the sunset. The outcome can only be written in the mind of those who dare to see without looking.