In the year 1501 a mutilated old statue was dug up in Rome near the palace of Cardinal Caraffa.
The statue was not identified, but the Cardinal, nevertheless, had it set up in the roadway at the corner of the palace.
Opposite the spot where the statue had been found there had lived an old man with a sharp wit, said to have been either a tailor, a cobbler, or a schoolmaster, whose name had been Pasquino. Accordingly, as soon as it had been set up on its pedestal, the statue was promptly dubbed “Pasquino.”
Thereafter, on St. Mark’s Day, it became the custom for the young men of a nearby school to dress “Pasquino” in various garments and to salute him with mock solemnity in passing and ask him for advice.
It was not long before such requests were put into writing and posted or hung upon the statue. Then the written matter took the form of witty and satirical lampoons upon prominent persons and especially upon the papal government.
The citizens of Rome began to enjoy these squibs, referring to them as Pasquinata, from the name given to the statue. A printed collection of them appeared in 1509. The name became Pasquinade in English, because the fame of these sharp little squibs had spread throughout Europe.
Popular enjoyment was enhanced when another old statue was discovered and placed near “Pasquino.” This was given the name “Marforio,” because it came a Martis for° (from the forum of Mars). The lampoons then often took the form of dialog, with “Marforio” propounding questions for the caustic “Pasquino” to answer.
The authors were numerous and their identities were never revealed, although the successive popes, against whose private and public conduct the lampoons were generally directed, would have taken harsh measures against them.
The statue “Marforio,” the recumbent figure of a man, was removed to the Capitoline Museum in 1784, but by that time the former pungency of the pasquinade had largely disappeared and these lampoons had become infrequent.