Charts & Graphs

Speaking Statues

“What is a statue? A living body covered with stones.”—Michel Serres

  • A depiction of Talos.


    In Greek myth, the god Hephaestus crafts a phylax empsychos—a giant bronze statue—for King Minos. Named Talos, the automaton patrols the island of Crete, throwing rocks at intruders and setting fire to invaders, until it is eventually destroyed.

  • A sculpture of Fortuna.

    Fortuna Muliebris

    When her temple was consecrated in 487 bc, a statue of Fortuna Muliebris was said to have spoken, praising the Roman matrons who had saved the city from Coriolanus. “We are to conclude,” Plutarch wrote of the event, “that an impression distinct from sensation affects the imaginative part of our nature.”

  • A drawing of Hermione.


    “O, she’s warm!” says the king of Sicilia in William Shakespeare’s c. 1610 play The Winter’s Tale when a statue of his long-dead wife comes to life. “If this be magic, let it be an art / lawful as eating.”

  • A painting of Il Commendatore

    Il Commendatore

    In W.A. Mozart and Lorenzo Da Ponte’s 1787 opera Don Giovanni, Don Giovanni jokingly extends a dinner invitation to a statue commemorating a man he had killed in a duel. The statue shows up to drag the dissolute nobleman to hell.

  • A bronze monument of a man on a horse.

    The Bronze Horseman

    In Aleksandr Pushkin’s 1833 poem The Bronze Horseman, a poor young man curses the equestrian statue of Peter the Great in St. Petersburg’s Senate Square during the great flood of 1824. The monument comes to life and chases him to his death.

  • A Virgin Mary statue in a garden.

    Ballinspittle Virgin Mary

    Moving statues were reported in more than thirty locations across Ireland in the summer of 1985 after a man claimed to see the roadside Ballinspittle Virgin stir. At the peak of the fervor, three Pentecostalists vandalized the Virgin with a hammer and ax, damaging its face and hands.

  • A photograph of rows of Buddha statues.

    Pu Xian Center Buddhas

    One hundred witnesses reported seeing Buddha statues move, talk, and emit light after a service at a Kuala Lumpur sanctuary in 2012. “The voices from the statues are particularly loud and harmonious,” an abbot told a reporter, “and sound like they are from another dimension.”

  • An ancient statue of a seated person with a small vessel on their lap.


    Stationed near the spot where it was discovered during the 1501 renovation of the Palazzo Orsini, the third-century-bc statue serves as a mouthpiece for disgruntled Romans, who cover him with satirical verses lampooning the powerful.

  • Statues holding tridents in Caesar's Palace

    King Atlas

    Every hour from eleven am to ten pm in the Forum Shops at Las Vegas’ Caesars Palace, nine-foot-tall statues adjacent to the Cheesecake Factory come to life for a seven-minute fountain show depicting the fall of Atlantis.