Pinocchio, the Italian boy puppet who was the subject of a 1940 Walt Disney movie about his early life, died yesterday morning after falling from an upper floor of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York City. Police have not determined whether the death was a suicide, homicide, or accident.
Pinocchio’s body was found by Nancy Spector, chief curator of the Guggenheim, who discovered it floating in the fountain of the museum’s Frank Lloyd Wright rotunda hours before the opening celebration for thanyspacewhatever, a group exhibition of installations by ten artists who emerged during the early 1990s. The show opens to the public today.
The only son of Gepetto, Pinocchio began life as a pine log and was the heir to one of Italy’s smallest carpentry fortunes. He struggled for years in his attempts to become “a real boy,” which he believed could be achieved with sufficient exhibitions of bravery, truthfulness, and unselfishness. After a dramatic early life marked by compulsive lying, influential encounters with a woman known as the blue fairy, emotionally scarring employment under the puppeteer Stromboli, and a harrowing journey into and out of a whale’s stomach, Pinocchio enjoyed fame and steady income from the 1940 animated Walt Disney film based on his life. In 2004, he received an honorary degree in sociology from the University of Trento.
According to reports in the Italian press, Pinocchio had recently become estranged from his longtime insect companion, Jiminy Cricket. The split was rumored to have sent Pinocchio back to Pleasure Island, a rowdy playground-cum-work camp off the Amalfi coast. Shy, retiring, and reluctant to grant interviews, Pinocchio was last seen at New York’s Marian Goodman Gallery with artist Maurizio Cattelan, who is known for his satirical sculpures.