Grand Tour Marble Fragment from the frieze of the Temple of Vespasian and Titus
Grand Tour Marble Fragment from the frieze of the Temple of Vespasian and Titus
Grand Tour Marble Fragment from the frieze of the Temple of Vespasian and Titus

Grand Tour Marble Fragment from the frieze of the Temple of Vespasian and Titus

c. 1820 Italy

Offered by Thomas Coulborn & Sons

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Probably originally part of a larger model. Mounted on a stand.

Antoine Desgodetz’s engraving of the famous frieze of the temple of Vespasian and Titus, depicted in our marble sample, shows the various articles employed in Roman sacrificial ceremonies. To the right is the priest’s headdress; next is the ‘aspergillum’, the wand used by the priest to sprinkle wine or water on the head of the sacrificial ox (or other animals, as different gods required different sacrificial animals); the adjacent axe was used to kill the ox; the knife was employed to cut the ox up; and the horsetail whisk was needed to brush away the swarming flies. The ‘oenochoe’, the wine flagon or pitcher was used by the priest to pour the ceremonial wine into the circular dish or ‘patera’, which is richly decorated in this engraving, resembling a shield. Frequently, the wine was then emptied from the patera onto the ground as an offering to the earth. Following its dismemberment, the ox’s entrails were examined for omens and then burned. The rest of the ox was usually roasted and eaten by the assembled crowd. Following the ceremony, the decorations of festoons and tassels were kept and used as garlands for the skull of the sacrificial ox – creating a ‘bucranium’ which was frequently displayed on the walls of the temples.

The term ‘frieze’ is used to refer to any long, narrow, horizontal panel or band used for decorative purposes, for example on Greco-Roman: pottery, walls of a room, or the exterior walls of buildings.

The Temple of Vespasian and Titus: The Temple of Vespasian and Titus is situated in Rome at the western end of the Roman Forum between the Temple of Concordia and the Portico of the Dei Consentes, on the Clivus Capitolinus behind the Temple of Saturn. Begun by Titus after the death of his father, Vespasian, in 79 AD, the Temple of Vespasian was completed by Titus’ brother, Domitian, when Titus himself died two years later, and was dedicated to both Vespasian and his son, Titus. Three fluted columns from the southeast corner of the pronaos still carry part of the entablature, the frieze of which was elaborately decorated with implements of sacrifice and bucrania (ox skulls), which were believed to ward off evil.

The Grand Tour: Beginning in the late sixteenth century, it became fashionable for young aristocrats to visit Rome, Paris, Venice and Florence, as the culmination of their classical education. The idea of ‘The Grand Tour’ was born, a practice which introduced Englishmen, Germans, Scandinavians, and also Americans to the art and culture of France and Italy for the next three hundred years. Travel was arduous and costly throughout the period, which made the Grand Tour possible only for the privileged classes – primarily British nobility and wealthy landed gentry. The standard route became a common itinerary and the Grand Tour served as an educational rite of passage, with its primary value believed to be exposure both to the cultural legacy of classical antiquity and the Renaissance, and to the contemporary aristocratic and fashionable society of the European continent. In addition, it provided an opportunity to view specific works of art, and to hear certain music. For gentlemen who undertook the Grand Tour, returning home with works of art or mementoes of the trip was essential to demonstrate the knowledge, breadth and polish they had acquired on their tour: leading to the creation of portable souvenirs such as this architectural sample.
A cast of the frieze is kept in the Tabluarium, so that the details of the sacrificial motifs can be studied.
Height 6.50 cm (2.56 inches)
Width 12.50 cm (4.92 inches)
Depth 3.75 cm (1.48 inches)
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Thomas Coulborn & Sons

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

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