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image M586

Fragment of a Roman marble vase carved with figures and foliage

150-250 AD

Greek island marble

Height: 38cm
Circumference (section remaining): 52cm
Circumference (rim): 42cm
Circumference (at feet of the figures): 44cm

Museum number: M586

Vermeule catalogue number: Vermeule 262help-vermeule-catalogue-number

Curatorial note

This fragment is roughly half of a circular carved marble vase of krater shape with handles at either side, enriched (from top to bottom) beneath an overhanging lip, with a grape-vine, leaves and grapes, and acanthus leaves springing in flattened profile up the bottom of the bowl. In the centre of the body four winged genii or putti, holding drapery behind them and about their shoulders, link hands in a frolicsome pose.

Judging from the heavy, shadowed cutting with use of the drill much in evidence, the fragment may be identified as garden sculpture of the period roughly 150 to 250 AD. The composition recalls, in reduced scale and poorer quality of workmanship, the large marble krater with a frieze of Bacchanalican boys found, like so many others of similar grandeur, at Hadrian's Villa and now at Woburn Abbey1. The great garden layouts of Hadrian's Villa and the ornamental sculptures commissioned for them must have exerted an influence on similar work on a lesser scale in the Antonine and Severan periods just as Versailles stimulated tastes for similar garden sculpture at many European courts and country residences in the 17th century.

Elaborately carved marble vases existed not only in freestanding examples in Roman villas of the imperial period but in monumental carved enrichment in the heart of the capital. The Museo Profano Lateranense in Rome possesses several major fragments of a figured frieze from the Forum of Trajan. In one of these2 an elaborate krater in high relief and with figures in the Neo Attic style is flanked by scrolled foliage from which spring two large genii pouring wine from cups into paterae. Like a number of the freestanding examples in marble which we are discussing, the intention appears to have been to simulate craftsmanship in bronze in the less expensive and more permanent medium of marble.

1 A.H. Smith, Catalogue of Sculpture at Woburn Abbey, 1900, p. 67ff., no. 143, fig. 36; A. Michaelis, Ancient Marbles in Great Britain, trans. C.A.M. Fennell, Cambridge, 1882, p. 741f., no. 147.
2 P. Gusman, L'Art décoratif de Rome de la fin de la république au IV siècle, Paris, 1910, Vol II, pl.105; R. Paribeni, L'Italia Imperiale, p.429, fig.315, also 316f.; Soane Museum Robert Adam Drawings, Volume 26, 53 (sketch of a piece from the Aldobrandini Collection).

Provenance help-art-provenance

Rome; collected 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 3, no. 10.


Tatham: Etchings, 12; Drawings, 8.

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