A pair of Italian leaves of the 16-17th century, a prospect of Rome, and the Baths of Constantine

A correspondent writes to tell us all about an item sold at Sothebys on 12 April 2016, in its sale of the “European Decorative Arts From Caramoor Center For Music And The Arts”.  Lot 168 (online here) is “A pair of Italian leaves with scenes of Venus in her chariot and a sacrifice. 16/17th century.”  The right hand leaf gives a panorama of Rome.

I’ve added a couple of bits of text to allow people to orient themselves.

Lot 168. A PAIR OF ITALIAN LEAVES WITH SCENES OF VENUS IN HER CHARIOT AND A SACRIFICE 16th/17th century. Sothebys, 12 April 2016. European Decorative Arts From Caramoor Center For Music And The Arts.

At the top of the picture is Old St Peter’s basilica.  The road leads down to the Castell Sant Angelo.  The Colosseum and Pantheon are clearly visible.  On the left are two triumphal arches, rather out of place, which I suspect are intended for the forum.

Other items will be familiar to those who read my post, Early 16th century maps of Rome and the Baths of Constantine.  The two horses rearing are the Dioscuri, who still stand on the Quirinal hill, although today they face the Quirinal palace, rather than the city.  The reclining figure behind it is the river god now in the Capitoline Museum, thought to have come from the Baths of Constantine.

To the left are two rotundas.  These are mysterious, but as my other post showed, seem to have been in the area of the Baths of Constantine.  To the left of them is a roofless building with a ruined vault at the end, which resembles some of the depictions of the Baths of Constantine in my post.

Every depiction is useful, so it is nice to have another!


5 thoughts on “A pair of Italian leaves of the 16-17th century, a prospect of Rome, and the Baths of Constantine

  1. Yes! This image of Rome is wonderful and adds another dimension to my class on Ancient Art. Love it!

  2. One of several reports on the discovery, in situ, of a city of Rome inscribed boundary stone, a pomerium cippus, is here:

    I selected this report because of this paragraph:
    “One of the distinctive features of the inscription is its use of the digamma, a now obsolete letter that—according to the ancient tabloid writer Suetonius—was Claudius’s own invention. It was one of three letters that Claudius introduced into the Roman alphabet: the antisigma Ↄ or ↃϹ, which resembles a backwards C or back-to-back Cs (yes, like the Chanel logo) ; Ⱶ a half H which seems to have been a short vowel sound; and the digamma Ⅎ a turned F that represented a consonantal U and sounded like a “w.” Suetonius tells us that Claudius even wrote a book to explain the theory behind them. The letters quickly fell into disuse but they were a part both of Claudius’ antiquarian interest in the esoteric and a growing first century CE interest in linguistic symbols and their function. In her excellent book Empire of Letters, MIT associate professor Stephanie Frampton explains that Claudius’ introduction of new letters was seen as part of a tradition whereby language and the alphabet developed over time. Tacitus tells us that it was once Claudius “discovered that not even Greek writing was begun and completed at one time” that he decided to design “some additional Latin characters.” Unlike those devised by other peoples, however, they didn’t catch on. Ironically, even the sizeable power of the emperor could not guarantee that people change the alphabet. It’s only on border stones and similar imperially mandated inscriptions that we can see evidence of Claudius’s failed innovation. His display of power is also a testimony to the limits of his authority.”

    A useful reminder against a certain class of conspiracy theories. Even Roman Emperors had limits.

  3. That’s a good report on the Pomerium stone, isn’t it? I hadn’t realised that it featured the Claudian letters! Thank you!

    I think people forget how loosely organised the Roman empire was. The mechanisms of a modern state did not really exist, and communications were poor. Later emperors in particular complain of how their edicts went unheeded.

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