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  • image M1274

Model of the Roman Temple of Fortuna Virilis, Rome, early 19th century(?)


Height: 67cm
Width: 74cm
Depth: 114cm

Museum number: M1274

Curatorial note

Soane owned twenty cork models (18 survive), including this one of the Temple of Fortuna Virilis, perhaps made in England in the late 18th century. The temple is situated on the banks of the Tiber River in the Forum Boarium, Rome, and dates from the late 2nd century BC when it was dedicated to the Roman god of rivers and seaports. In the 9th century AD, it was converted to a Christian church, which accounts for its good state of preservation. Its style represents a merging of both Etruscan and Greek design.

A number of popular exhibitions in 18th and 19th century London featured models of ancient monuments in their displays. Cork was a perfect material for model-making as its structure already resembled weathered stone. Apart from being acquired as souvenirs, cork models were attractive as objects in collectors’ cabinets and also used as reference material for architects.

One of the most comprehensive exhibitions of cork models was Dubourg’s Exhibition on Duke Street, which opened in 1798. Illustrations show that Dubourg’s display was very similar to the arrangements in Soane’s own Model Room, first created in the front attic in 1829 and later moved to the front room on the second floor in 1834 where it was very much expanded and elaborated. The room was dismantled after his death but has been reinstated as part of the Opening up the Soane project. It is likely that Soane’s model of the Temple Virilis, which he purchased in 1832, may have originally been displayed in Dubourg’s exhibition.

Exhibition history

John Soane Architect: Master of Space and Light, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 11 September - 3 December 1999; Centro Palladio, Vicenza, April - August 2000; Hôtel de Rohan, Paris, January - April 2001; Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montreal, 16 May - 3 September 2001; Real Academia des Bellas Artes, Madrid, October - December 2001

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