Cork Model of the Temple of Zeus at Paestum
Cork Model of the Temple of Zeus at Paestum
Cork Model of the Temple of Zeus at Paestum
Cork Model of the Temple of Zeus at Paestum
Cork Model of the Temple of Zeus at Paestum
Cork Model of the Temple of Zeus at Paestum
Cork Model of the Temple of Zeus at Paestum

Attributed to DOMENICO PADIGLIONE (worked from c.1820)

Cork Model of the Temple of Zeus at Paestum

c. 1820 Naples

Offered by Thomas Coulborn & Sons


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An intricate cork model of the Temple of Zeus (formerly thought to be the Temple of Poseidon) at Paestum, which dates back to the 19th Century. For a long time, architectural models have been used for resolving structural problems; for presentation, as three-dimensional records; and for decoration. Such models were often used in the 18th and 19th Centuries by architects such as Sir John Soane, to enable their students and clerks to examine a building's design without having to travel abroad. Models were very important in Soane’s own work as an architect – both to convince clients of the value of a design and to help him to understand structural problems. Soane found architectural models vital for teaching, often using them to illustrate his lectures at the Royal Academy. He used them to show his pupils the great monuments of the classical past, and to explain his architectural designs. Soane accumulated a collection of miniature buildings made out of cork, which were housed in ‘The Model Room’ of the Soane Museum, enabling his students to take an ‘alternative Grand Tour’. He saw these models as essential in helping to understand the different modes of construction, the materials, colouring and form. Soane’s collection includes a cork model of the ‘Temple of Zeus or Apollo (the so-called Temple of Neptune or Poseidon), Paestum’, also attributed to Domenico Padiglione. Despite Sir John Soane’s initial, negative reaction to the temples at Paestum, he began to incorporate the early Greek Doric order which he saw there into his designs as early as 1779.

Paestum was a major ancient Greek city on the coast of the Tyrrhenian Sea in Magna Graecia. After its foundation by Greek colonists under the name of ‘Poseidonia’ (Ancient Greek: Ποσειδωνία) it was eventually conquered by the Lucanians and later the Romans. The Lucanians renamed it ‘Paistos’ and the Romans gave the city its current name, ‘Paestum’.

The ruins of Paestum are notable for their three ancient Greek temples which still remain in Paestum and are in a very good state of preservation. These three temples are in the Doric order, dating from the first half of the 6th Century BC. They were dedicated to Hera and Poseidon, although they have traditionally been identified as a basilica and temples of Neptune and Ceres, owing to incorrect attributions in the 18th Century. This model depicts the second Temple of Hera, which was constructed around 460–450 BC, but which had been assigned as a temple dedicated to Poseidon. It was discovered that the temple was used to worship Zeus and another unknown god, in addition to Hera. On the east side of the temple, the remains of two altars are visible, one large and one smaller. The smaller one is a Roman addition. It is possible that the temple was originally dedicated to both Hera and Poseidon; and some of the offertory statues around the larger altar are thought to have led to this affiliation.

In Greek mythology, the Twelve Olympians were the principal deities of the Greek pantheon. Hera and Poseidon were two of these major deities. Hera was the goddess of women and marriage, and was Zeus’ wife and one of his three sisters. Poseidon was the god of the sea, earthquakes and horses.

The use of cork for creating models of ancient structures became popular in the sixteenth Century, as the texture of the material bears resemblance to weathered stone. In the eighteenth Century, the production of cork models was a flourishing craft that developed in Rome and Naples in response to demand from travellers. ‘Bearing Rome across the Alps...’ was a phrase coined when explorers returning from Italy brought back beautiful, expensive models of ancient Italian architecture recreated in cork as souvenirs. Cork models became souvenirs and objects of study in Rome at the beginning of the classicist period in architecture. This was coupled with a modern study of classical antiquity and a growing interest in the ancient world amongst educated Europeans, who pilgrimaged on the ‘Grand Tour’. Around 1800, cork from cork oaks in Southern Europe was a material which was used frequently. To make this cork suitable for creating models, the curved cork boards had to be flattened for a long time in presses, before they could be shaped using a variety of sharp tools. Cork, being pliable and porous, was the ideal material for optically portraying the stonework of ancient buildings and, being light, was therefore easily transported. Precision was important, as was the correct scale and the proper appearance. Augusto Rosa (1738-1784), a Roman architect who earned himself an extra income producing models of a wide variety of ruins in and around Rome in 1780, is considered the inventor of exact architectural modelling in cork. The origin of the name ‘Phelloplastik’ (from the Greek: φελλός ‘phello’ = cork) is debated, but was possibly given to the art of ‘Korkbildnerei’ by Franz Oberthür, a theology professor from Würzburg, when he visited Rosa during a trip to Italy; or by Karl August Böttiger (1760 –1835) in circa 1800. Whereas ‘Korkbildnerei’ is considered to go back at least until the sixteenth Century, ‘Phelloplastik’ began with Augusto Rosa and is ascribed to the eighteenth and nineteenth Centuries. Makers such as Giovanni Altieri (1767-90), and Domenico Padiglione and his sons, ran workshops producing models, often from measured drawings. But models were also popular with the public in London, who flocked to see exhibitions of celebrated structures from around the world in miniature form. Other key manufacturers of this modelling practice of sculpting in cork were the Italian Antonio Chichi (1743-1816) and the German Carl May (1747-1822).

Domenico Padiglione: In 1806, Domenico Padiglione was employed as an official model maker by the Real Museo (Royal Museum), Naples. He built cork models, working to form a ‘Gallery of Models of ancient monuments’ in the Museum, of which Antonio Bonucci would become the director. In 1810, a series of models had already been created and were temporarily exhibited in the Quadreri, amongst them that of the Temple of Poseidon of Paestum (circa 1805). Padiglione also made additional money by creating models for general sale. The children of Domenico Agostini and his wife Felice Padiglione continued to work on the maintenance and restoration of the relief models. The latter was commissioned in 1861 by Giuseppe Fiorelli, then Inspector of Excavations, to execute the great cork model of Pompeii on a scale of 1:100. Domenico Padiglione also led the Cork Model Workshop at the Museo Borbonico (which was open between 1777-1859 and is now known as Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli) in Naples for more than twenty years.

Comparators: Both the Soane Museum, London and Yale University Art Gallery have similar cork temples, models of the Temple of Zeus. The temple at the Soane Museum is called a ‘Cork model of the Temple of ‘Neptune’ (Hera) at Paestum’ (Museum No. MR25; Yale University Art Gallery’s temple is called ‘Model of Greek temple at Paestum’, by an unknown maker, dated before 1835 (Accession Number: 1835.10;
Owned by Mr. Fattio, tailor to the Naples Royal Family, and thence by descent.
'Tempel i kork : modeller av antika byggnader ur Gustav III: s samlingar : Tillfällig utställning 11 juni -27 september 1992' / [ curator : Eva Rystedt ] - Stockholm : Medelhavsmuseet , 1992. --95 p.: ill. ; 21cm , where it deals, particularly on p.84 -88, with the model of the Temple of Poseidon at Paestu.
'La realizzazione del plastico di Pompei' / Valeria Sampaolo, in Il Museo: review of the Italian museum system (rivista del Sistema museale italiano), 3 (1993) p. 79-95.
'Il plastico di Pompei'/texts: Valeria Sampaolo.- [ Naples , 2001 ] - 1 fold : ill. ; 22 cm . With a copy : Ministry for Cultural Assets and Activities , Archaeological Service of Naples and Caserta , MANN.
'Il *Museo Reale di Napoli al tempo di Giuseppe Bonaparte e di Gioacchino Murat' / Andrea Milanese, in the review of the National Institute of Archaeology and History of Art (Rivista dell'Istituto Nazionale d'Archeologia e Storia dell'Arte), Ser 3 . , a. 19-20., 1996-1997, p.346-405.
Height 25.00 cm (9.84 inches)
Width 66.00 cm (25.98 inches)
Depth 30.00 cm (11.81 inches)
Stock Code
Thomas Coulborn & Sons

Thomas Coulborn & Sons
Vesey Manor
64 Birmingham Road
Sutton Coldfield
West Midlands
B72 1QP

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