'To those who ask me about my work, I can only respond in my own way. I'm no auctioneer (let me emphasize that), I do what most pleases and moves me in imagination (let me emphasize that). I made them as well as could be done. Phidias and Praxiteles, Donatello and Michelangelo, Bernini and Canova, are my witnesses. I'm not bringing these names up as examples, but because I have found them exemplary.' (Luciano Fabro, statement in Flash Art no. 24, May 1971, reproduced in Zero to Infinity: Arte Povera 1962-1972, exh. cat. Tate Modern, 2001, p. 223)
A fascinating, iconic and instantly recognizable image, Corona di Piombo (Crown of Lead) is an extraordinary play of form, symbolism, material and texture that derives from the height of Luciano Fabro's involvement with 'arte povera' in the late 1960s and early '70s. Immediately recognizable as an enormous crown of laurels rendered and materialized in large leaf-like sheets of lead, it is a sculpture that belongs among Fabro's most important works of this time in which the artist deliberately sought to subvert the generally accepted symbolic function of known forms and objects by realizing them in a variety of new materials and installing them in unusual, inventive and surprising ways.
Like Fabro's most iconic works of this period, the Italie (maps of Italy which he rendered in a variety of materials such as lead, fur and glass, and subsequently positioned or displayed according to the demands of this material and not according to the iconic and recognizable bootshape of the country's geographical outline) the laurel wreath form of Corona di Piombo is also powerfully evocative of Italy and its glorious, historic and classical past.
As in the Italie and also in the cycle of works known as the Piedi (Feet) - vast cloth columns surmounting strange claw-like feet rendered in a variety of sumptuous and often distinctly Italian materials such as marble and Murano glass that subvert the notion of the classical column - Fabro's intention with all these works was a liberating one. The aim was to induce in the viewer a new awareness of space and reality as a vital and enriched arena of potential existing beyond the confines of convention. To instill in them a complete experience of the world conducted through all the senses without the sterilizing presence of all the preconceptions and associations that normally accompany such iconic images. 'I wanted to discover' Fabro said at the time of his exhibition at the Galleria Borgogna in 1971, 'to what degree people would react autonomously when faced with images which only habit tends to set among conventional images.' (Ibid.)