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image M1252

Fragment of a Roman composite pilaster capital.

98-138 AD

Luna marble

Height: 37cm
Width: 40cm
Thickness: 8cm

Museum number: M1252

Vermeule catalogue number: Vermeule 60help-vermeule-catalogue-number

Curatorial note

Below convex fillet and cavette moulding, flat palm leaves and knotted stems, and foliate crest above rosettes on the front centre. On the upper corners are volutes formed of curled acanthus leaves.

Trajanic-Hadrianic work of superior quality. Probably from Hadrian's Villa at Tivoli and close to the style of enrichment in the large capitals from the Peristyle Court.

Like the pilaster capital from the upper interior order of the Pantheon (Vermeule no.61), this pilaster belongs to the more Roman or rather less Asiatic in tradition group of decorative motives which develop from the Trajanic building well into the Hadrianic period, before the latter emperor's extensive construction programme in Greece and elsewhere of which Soane Vermeule nos. 64-66 (M23, M22, M692) are the Roman counterparts. Although other influences enter and re-enter the decorative art and architecture of Hadrian's Villa at Tivoli, including probably the Greek-type capitals just cited, the carving of the heavier architectural members and much of the functional enrichment is in this vocabulary of forms longer established on Italian soil. In addition to the Villa and the interior of the Pantheon, there are a number of well preserved parallel pilaster capitals from lost or altered building scattered about Roman museums and private collections. One well preserved example close to this is set above the living room doorway of the Villetta di S. Urbano off the Via Appia Pignatelli1. The widespread use and popularity of this school of carving throughout the Italian peninsula in the later first and second centuries is stressed by the numerous related examples collected by K. Ronczewski2 , and those generally belonging to the first century of the Empire or into the Trajanic period in the museum at Aquileia3 .

The capital was on loan at the Frick Collection together with two other pieces, Soane: Connoisseur and Collector, April - July 1996, with M404 and M1253.

1 In the 1950s when Vermeule visited it was occupied by A. Donald Trownson, Esq., Secretary of the British Embassy in Rome.
2 K. Ronczewski, in Arch Anz., 1931, cols.1-102.
3 Scrinari, Capitelli, no. 52-57.

Provenance help-art-provenance

Rome; collected in Rome by Charles Heathcote Tatham for the architect Henry Holland during the 1790s. See Cornelius Vermeule, unpublished Catalogue of the Antiquities at Sir John Soane's Museum, Introduction, transcription of Tatham letters, List 1, no.17.


Tatham: Etchings, 9; Drawings, 12.

If you have any further information about this object, please contact us: worksofart@soane.org.uk