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image S28


Severan (193-235 AD) or later second century

Pavonazzetto marble

Height: 57cm
Width: 41cm

Museum number: S28

Vermeule catalogue number: Vermeule 70help-vermeule-catalogue-number

Curatorial note

Similar to he previous example (Vermeule 69) in all major respects. The noticeable difference is one of technique in carving: the sculptor of the first example failed to leave enough room for the lower drapery of his figure and had to omit the little ledge above the acanthus leaf, whereas he corrected the error in the second panel and allowed for better transition from skirt bottom to acanthus foliage.

The original purpose of these objects is, on account of their rarity alone, one which presents a puzzle. J.B. Ward Perkins offered the excellent suggestion that they might be two panels cut from the relief decoration of a statue base, with the pomegranate and flower being related to the nature of the figure which stood on top (Persephone?). Mr. Donald Strong, noting the Hellenistic characteristics of the workmanship, favoured the notion that they might be cut away from large akroteria or antefixia. The motive can be traced in other media. An Italo-Hellenistic Sardonyx in Berlin1 shows a chitoned female figure standing on plant leaves and holding two budding or fruit-laden stalks, in pose similar to these figures. Furtwängler suggests Aphrodite for the figure and apples for the fruit. There are many other motives common to gems and architectural carving; the presence of a composition such as this in a pre-Imperial gem can be understood to corroborate the motive as known to more than one expression of the Hellenistic decorative tradition. Finally there is the outside possibility that the pair are fragments from the carved central enrichment of pilaster(?) capitals. The capitals of the Augusteum of Ancyra in Galatia2 [modern day Ankara, Turkey] show figures of Victory in long chiton, with overfold, standing on the acanthus at the bottom and holding the scrolled tendrils which rise either side. This would certainly strengthen the Hellenistic connections of the type, and the tradition carried into Roman decorative carving, since these pieces were brought from the latter region (compare also the figures of the winged Tyche-Victoria which grow out of and hold the foliate acanthus on the giant rectangular capital from the Temple of Apollo at Miletos which is now in the lower court of the Musee du Louvre, Paris).

Continuing both in the Hellenistic Greek world and in Augustan architectural and subsidiary decoration in the capital itself, the front-view of a pilaster capital in the Ionic style at Priene3 shows a small caryatid figure springing from foliage which she holds with either hand. She is similarly clad in chiton with long girt overfold. In the enrichment of an Archaistic terracotta "altar" or pedestal drawn by Tatham in Rome (Tatham, Drawings, pl. 31, no.10) a similar figure with wings and with appropriate stylistic changes in costuming supports the foliage on which she stands, all in a manner quite similar to but more effectively carried out than that effected by the master of the Soane fragments. The pilaster capitals attached to two sections of frieze background from the Hadrianic baths of Aphrodisias and now in the Constantinople Museum each feature nude, half-figures of Aphrodite (?) emerging from foliage and grasping scrolled tendrils in their hands4 . The corners of the example linked with a reclining figure of the city of Tyche are carved in figures of Victory standing in an orb and holding, in at least one case, a trophy on the left shoulder.

1 Berlin no. 932; A.G. Furtwängler, Masterpieces of Greek Sculpture, ed. and trans. E. Sellers, 2 vols, London, 1895, I, II, pl. XXIV, no. 51.
2 C.V. Daremberg and E. Saglio, Dictionnaire des Antiquités Grecques Et Romaines, 5 vols, Paris, 1877-1919, p. 909, fig. 1162; Georges Perrot and Edmond Guillaume, Exploration archaéologique de la Galatie et de la Bithynie: d'une partie de la Mysie, de la Phrygie, de la Cappadoce et du Pont, 1872, Paris, pl. XXXIX.
3 Speltz, Styles of Ornament from Prehistoric Times to the Middle of the Nineteenth Century, trans. and ed. R.P. Spiers, London and Leipzig, 1910, plate 20, no. 15; Fiechter, in Jahrbuch des Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts, XXXIII, 1918, pp. 215ff., figs. 60ff.
4 G. Mendel, Catalogue des sculptures grecques, romains et byzantines aux Musées Imeriaux Ottomans, 3 vols, Constantinople, 1912-14, II, p. 185 ff., no. 494f; Maria Floriani Squarciapino, La Scuola I Afrodisia, Rome, 1943, p. 65 f., pl. XXI.

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 3, nos. 52, 53. (Soane Archive)


Tatham: Drawings, 11.
Robert Cohon, The Soane Reliefs: A Goddess in a Calyx, the Ara Pacis in Pavonazetto, Sonderdruck aus Mitteilungen des DAI, Römische Abteilung, 101, 1994, pp. 87-95.

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