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  • image M631

Main section of a Roman candelabrum, decorative shaft or baetylus (sacred pillar).

Italian marble

Height: 32cm
Width: 9cm
Circumference: 43cm

Museum number: M631

Vermeule catalogue number: Vermeule 209help-vermeule-catalogue-number

Curatorial note

This fragment is decorated on the upper section, between three rope fillets, with scale and stylised bead and tendril enrichment; on the lower section, flowers and tendrils spring from acanthus and palm leaf sheathing.

This could be the shaft or upper central portion of a candelabrum such as the example once in the circular church of S. Costanza, Rome and now in the Vatican Museum1. This fragment can also be compared with the lower shaft of a restored candelabrum in the Villa Albani.2

There are six celebrated almost identical baluster-shaped candelabra which were drawn during the Renaissance (Codex Escurialensis fol. 50v) and etched by Piranesi in the 18th century3. Soane owned complete plaster casts of two of them (see Soane M443 and M445: these casts have the fire-dish missing - the ones on the original candelabra are modern) and a further cast of 'half' one, which supports a canopic jar (Soane M xxx). Additionally in Soane's collection one can find plaster casts of the foliated putti reliefs on the bases as well as other parts of the candelabra).

The surviving evidence indicates that the six candelabra were not discovered at the same time and were at different locations in Rome during the centuries. Today four of them are in the Vatican Museum (Galleria dei Candelabri: see Cain, cat. no. 99-102, pp. 184-187), one in the Villa Borghese (Cain, cat. no. 72, p. 174) and one in S. Agnese fuori le mura (Cain, cat. no. 93, p. 182/83). See Cain also for further bibliographical notes and provenance.

1 S. Reinach, Répertoire de Reliefs Grecs et Romains, Paris, 1909-12, vol III, p.416, fig.4. The reference to S. Costanza seems to be to one of the S. Agnese candelabra mentioned in the next paragraph which was in S. Costanza at some time during its wanderings through Rome.
2 P. Arndt, Photographische Einzelaufnahmen antiker Sculpturen, Munich, 1893-1912, no.4323.
3 Wilton Ely 382

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 See Cornelius Vermeule, unpublished catalogue of the Antiquities at Sir John Soane's Museum, Introduction, transcription of Tatham letters, List 2, no.12.


Tatham: Etchings, 5; Drawings, 1.

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