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François Fouquet (1787 - 1870), maker

Model of the Sepulchral Temple at Palmyra, Syria, 'restored', c.1800-1834

Plaster of Paris

Height: 25cm
Width: 21.6cm
Depth: 25.7cm

Museum number: MR70

Curatorial note

This is still one of the more recognisable sites in Palmyra and is a relatively extant structure. In Fouquet’s day, the six Corinthian columns of the portico, along with parts of the entablature and tympanum were still standing (more of the temple walls have subsequently been restored). Dating to the 2nd century, the Temple is a very elaborate example of a multi-generational family tomb or ‘house tomb’. The exterior resembled a conventional temple structure (though as is typical for many buildings in Palmyra the columns of the portico do not rest directly on the stylobate but instead are supported by plinths). What is notable from the model is the pulvinated or pillow-like frieze, richly ornamented with sculpted palm leaves – the tree from which the city of Palmyra derives its name. The interior of the Temple was unusually richly ornamented. Modern reconstructions based upon archaeological surveys of the Temple show it to have had tiers of loculi or niches containing interred remains which were closed off by slabs carved with portraits of the deceased. Above this were further architectural and sculptural embellishments. In effect, the interior formed a gallery of ancestors set off by a rich architectural framework of Corinthian pilasters. At the centre of this and dominating the interior was a two tiered pylon (a bit like the Fouquet model of part of the Tetrapylon MR72) which acted as a shrine to the founder of the tomb and would have probably held his or her statue.

Fouquet based his reconstruction on plate V, Vol.2, in Cassas’ Voyage pittoresque de la Syrie, de la Phoenicie, de la Palestine et de la Basse Aegypte. In this model he has included a conjectural reconstruction of the doors, painted to imitate bronze.

Provenance help-art-provenance

Sir John Soane purchased the twenty models by François Fouquet in 1834 from the architect Edward Cresy (1792-1858) who, from 1829 to 1835, worked in Paris. Soane paid Cresy the substantial sum of £100 (£10,136.78 in today’s money). It is likely that Cresy purchased the models directly from Fouquet et Fils.

Exhibition history

Wonders of the Ancient World: François Fouquet's Model Masterpieces, Sir John Soane's Museum, London, 15 July - 22 November 2011

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