25 Famous Sculptures in Rome You Will Love

Rome’s monuments and ancient ruins bear witness to millennia of human civilization, and its magnificent statues are tangible echoes of its past. From imposing figures of emperors and gods carved in marble to the delicate masterpieces of Renaissance craftsmanship, each tells a unique story and offers a window into the history of this remarkable city.

Join me as I share my curated list of famous sculptures in Rome. Some of these are preserved within the city’s museums and churches but many more grace the piazze of the Eternal City. Which one will be your favourite?

statue of a roman soldier with outstretched hand in front of buildings in rome

My Favourite Sculptures in Rome

Pietà, Michelangelo (1498 – 1499) – St. Peter’s Basilica

michelangelo pieta statue of virgin mary holding body of jesus

If you see just one sculpture in Rome, make it this. It’s one of the most celebrated sculptures in Italy, if not the world.

Carved from a single block of Carrara marble, Michelangelo’s Pietà depicts Mary tenderly cradling the body of a lifeless Jesus. The sculpture’s fluid lines and emotive expressions embody profound grief, serenity and maternal love.

Angel of Grief, William Wetmore Story (1894)  – Non-Catholic Cemetery of Rome

stone sculpture in rome of angel draped over a tomb

The Angel of Grief, also known as the Weeping Angel, represents an angel mourning the loss of life. It is inscribed in mourning script with the words, “I weep for her.”

This iconic sculpture was created as the headstone for the artist’s wife, Emelyn Story. It is an angel in pain, collapsed and weeping over the tomb, echoing the devastation wrought on the artist by her death.

The statues of the Trevi Fountain (Fontana di Trevi)

the fountain of travi in rome with majestic statues in niches

The Trevi Fountain is one of Rome’s most famous landmarks and its most magnificent fountain.

Designed by the little-known Niccolò Salvi in the 18th Century, the niches contain a figure of Neptune at the centre, flanked by statues symbolising Health (right) and Abundance (left). On the enormous tufa rock, two giant tritons conduct the winged chariot of Neptune, pulled by winged horses.

Bernini’s Angels on Ponte Sant’Angelo

monumental statue of an angel

Ponte Sant’Angelo, also known as the Bridge of Angels, is one of the most gorgeous bridges in Rome. Its ten angel statues, designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, steal the show.

Once dubbed Bernini’s Breezy Maniacs, this Baroque parade represents Christ’s Passion and was completed in 1688.

Moses, Michelangelo (1513 -1515)- San Pietro in Vincoli

white marble sculpture of moses

The charming San Pietro in Vincoli is best known as the home of Michelangelo’s majestic sculpture of Moses, designed for the ill-fated tomb of Pope Julius II. If you visit Florence, you can see the unfinished Prisoners sculptures, also destined for this tomb, in the Galleria Accademia.

Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (Fountain of the Four Rivers), Bernini (1648) – Piazza Navona

Piazza Navona is a triumph of Bernini’s Baroque style and his masterpiece is the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (Fountain of the Four Rivers).

Commissioned by Pope Innocent X in 1648, four colossal allegorical figures representing the Danube, Ganges, Nile and Rio della Plata are seated on a triangular rock base. A horse and a lion inhabit the caves in the hollow rock below, which is overgrown with carved plants and a palm tree.

Fontana del Tritone, Bernini (1642 – 43) – Piazza Barberini

fountain with statue of mythical creature shooting water out of shell

Another Roman piazza, another Bernini masterpiece.

Four dolphins support a scallop shell on which a merman (or triton) blows a jet of water through a conch shell. This fountain was commissioned by the Barberini Pope Urban VIII and is decorated with the Barberini coat of arms featuring the emblem of the bee.

Sculptures of Ara Pacis – Piazza Augusto Imperatore

bas relief sculpture of swirling leaves

Ara Pacis is one of Rome’s less well-known sculptures but is one of the most important monuments of Ancient Rome.

Housed in a purpose-built museum, this monumental marble altar features intricately carved decorations. It was consecrated in 13 BC and was dedicated to the peace and stability that Augustus had brought to the Empire.

Although you have to pay to visit the museum – Ara Pacis is the only thing it houses – you can look at it for free through the window.

Statues of Foro Italico – Stadio dei Marmi

line of life sized sculptures of athletes at stadio marmi in rome

Now for something completely different.

Designed to host the 1940 Summer Olympics, Foro Italico is one of the best examples of fascist architecture in Rome. The games were eventually cancelled due to the war.

It includes the Stadio dei Marmi which is surrounded by 59 life-sized marble statues of athletes in classical poses.

La Bocca della Verità (Mouth of Truth) – Santa Maria in Cosmedin

ancient small stone fountain in rome with a face

If you have seen the classic movie Roman Holiday, you may remember that scene where the two main characters gingerly place their hands into the mouth of a stone sculpture.

This weather-beaten sculpture is the face of the sea god Oceanus, known as la Bocca della Verità, or the Mouth of Truth. It is said that if a liar places their hand in the mouth, they will lose it.

Best Sculptures in the Capitoline Museums

Located atop the Capitoline Hill, the Capitoline Museums (Musei Capitolini) are home to some of the greatest sculptures in antiquity.

Established in 1471 by Pope Sixtus IV, they are considered the world’s oldest public museums. The museum complex comprises several buildings, including the Palazzo dei Conservatori and the Palazzo Nuovo, interconnected by an underground gallery called the Tabularium.

Rome She-Wolf

bronze statue of she wolf suckling two naked boys

The Rome She-Wolf, also known as the Capitoline Wolf, originates from the Etruscan period and is a symbol of Rome’s mythological origins and maternal protection. Crafted in bronze, it depicts a she-wolf suckling the legendary founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus.

If you are visiting Rome on a budget, you can see a scaled-down copy of the she-wolf on top of a column outside the museum.

Boy With Thorn

bronze statue of boy pulling thorn out of foot

Boy with Thorn, also known as Fedele (Fedelino) or Spinario, is a poignant bronze sculpture of a nude boy withdrawing a thorn from the sole of his foot. His face is a study in concentration, meticulously capturing the vulnerability of the human condition.

This sculpture in the Capitoline Museum is one of several representations of this Greco-Roman subject. There is a Roman marble version in Florence’s Uffizi Galleries.  

Bronze Colossus of Constantine

massive bronze sculpture of the head of constantine

This colossal head was once part of a bronze statue of Emperor Constantine and is thought to date from the 4th Century AD. The statue may have been as tall as 12 meters.

In common with Spinario and the Capitoline Wolf, Pope Sixtus IV donated the Colossus of Constantine to the city of Rome in 1471 and it was transferred to the Capitoline Museums.

Camillo

bronze statue of young man in classical drapery with outstretched hand

This remarkable bronze statue depicts the Roman leader Camillus, a figure associated with sacrificial rituals. The figure has striking silver eyeballs and is dressed in a tunic, cinched with a copper-adorned belt, and sandals.

Harmoniously blending iconographic elements and shapes from different periods of the Greek art – notice how the statue’s head has feminine features but a masculine body –  Camillo was created between 14 BC and 68 AD.

Lion Attacking a Horse

sculpture of a lion attacking a horse

The Lion Attacking a Horse is one of the earliest recorded works of ancient art on the Capitoline Hill,

Depicting a terrified stallion collapsing under a lion that violently bites his body, the Lion Attacking a Horse is an emblem of victory and vanquish, and a symbol of municipal Rome. The brutality of the kill is emphasised using a circular composition to focus attention on the lion’s claws tearing through the horse’s hide

None other than Michelangelo was a fan, declaring it “most marvellous.”

Equestrian Statue of Marcus Aurelius

statue of an emperor on horseback

This ancient Roman equestrian statue is next to the Lion Attacking a Horse. Experts believe it was erected in 176 AD, on the occasion of his triumph over the Germanic tribes, or in 180 AD soon after his death.

The figure of the emperor is dressed in military clothing, for example, the tunic and cloak, and was originally gilded.

Borghese Gallery Sculptures

In the 17th Century, Cardinal Scipione Borghese set out to demonstrate that the Renaissance equalled the glories of Ancient Rome. To prove his point, he curated a magnificent art collection that connects the Classical world with the Renaissance.

The Borghese Gallery (Galleria Borghese) is famous for its outstanding collection of sculptures, especially those by Bernini and Canova.

Pauline Borghese as Venus, Antonio Canova (1805 – 1808)

classical marble sculpture of semi nude lady

Napoleon’s sister bared all for Canova, the satisfied smirk on her face telling you all you need to know about her promiscuity and flirtatiousness. Pauline Borghese as Venus scandalized the good citizens of early 19th Century Europe who were not used to seeing their aristocracy posing in the buff.

The range of textures Canova produced from this block of marble is extraordinary, from the dent and creases in the mattress to the glow of Pauline’s skin.

Apollo and Daphne, Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1622 – 1625)

marble statue of apollo-and-daphne

For me, Apollo and Daphne is one of the greatest sculptures in Rome.

Inspired by Ovid’s Metamorphoses, it captures the moment when Daphne’s fingers begin to sprout leaves, her toes become roots and she transforms into a laurel tree. I love how Bernini has captured the intensity of this moment, from Daphne’s flowing hair to her fingers branching into leaves.

David, Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1624)

marble sculpture in rome of bernini's david

Bernini’s giant slayer is far removed from the more familiar David by Michelangelo. This is no apprehensive, pretty boy. Instead, Bernini’s David is coiled like a spring, ready for action, lips pursed, eyes focused on his target.

Rape of Persephone, Gian Lorenzo Bernini (c. 1621)

marble sculpture of the intertwined bodies of a man and woman

Carved from marble when he was just 24 years old, the Rape of Persephone is one of Bernini’s early masterpieces.

Persephone resists abduction by Pluto, king of the underworld, whilst Cerebus, the three-headed hound of Hell, sits at her leg. Look at how Bernini captured Pluto’s hand digging into her thigh.

Other Famous Statues in Rome

St. Peter – St. Peter’s Basilica

bronze statue of st peter with his hand raised in blessing

Bestowing a blessing as he preaches, whilst holding the keys to the kingdom of heaven, the provenance of this bronze statue of St. Peter is unclear.  Some scholars have attributed it to Arnolfo di Cambio (1245-1302) but others believe it dates from the 5th Century.

Over the millennia, pilgrims have touched and kissed the foot of the statue, praying for St. Peter to open the gates of heaven for them. As a result, the toes on the sculpture’s right foot have been worn down.

Small elephant sculpture, Bernini (1667) – Piazza della Minerva

statue of an elephant supporting an obelisk

This popular tourist attraction is one of the most unusual sculptures in Rome. Located at the back of the Pantheon, this charming statue of an elephant was designed to support an ancient Egyptian obelisk discovered in the grounds of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva.

Fontana della Barcaccia (Barcaccia Fountain), Bernini – Piazza di Spagna

a fountain based on a leaking boat at the bottom of the spanish steps in rome

Bernini’s delightful Barcaccia Fountain is at the base of the theatrical Spanish Steps. It represents a leaking boat, which is well adapted to the low water pressure of the fountain. 

Sculptures of the Arch of Constantine – Roman Forum

majestic arch of constantine with carvings

Triumphal arches were common in the Roman Empire and this one was erected to celebrate the victory of Emperor Constantine over his imperial rival Maxentis in 312 AD. Standing 69-foot-high and 85-foot wide it is also one of the largest and best preserved of Rome’s arches.

Altare della Patria (Altar to the Fatherland) – Piazza Venezia

white front of the altar of the fatherland in rome italy

The Altar to the Fatherland or Il Vittoriano (Monumento a Vittorio Emanuele II) is the Marmite of Rome monuments. It was inaugurated in 1911 to symbolise Italian unity.

The monument is filled with allegorical references and the sculptures are examples of official Academic Italian art of the period. It’s not to my taste.