200 BCE‒300 CE
455cm x 685cm
Excavations at Castellarcione near Bagni di Tivoli (Rome)
During refurbishment of the villa in the late 18th-century, commissioned by Marco Antonio IV Borghese, the architect Antonio Asprucci decided to entirely relay the floor of the “Room of the Hermaphrodite” with ancient mosaics, a popular custom at the time, and whose decorative impact was powerfully suggestive. In fact, for visitors, the interior of a room with its authentic “mosaic carpet” covering the floor, became both an integral part of the modern refurbishment and a museum object. For the assemblage, which took place in 1781, Asprucci used mosaics from the excavation of a large Roman thermal complex situated in Castellarcione, a property of the Borghese family, located on Via Tiburtina at Bagni di Tivoli, not far from the famous Villa Adriana. The most ancient part of the mosaic, “little stars” on a white background (constructed from four black tiles juxtaposed in a form similar to a star), is surrounded by a frame, reproducing a polychrome meander. At the centre of the room, a panel, produced later, depicts a fishing scene, surrounded by multiple frames of braid motifs with acanthus leaves in the corners. A second panel, from the same period and depicting another fishing scene, is placed on the step in the window recess. The fashion for using authentic mosaic tiles to recall Antiquity is characteristic of the last decades of the 18th century. This is demonstrated in various buildings of the era, such as the Pontifical Galleries (for example the famous Sala Rotonda of the Pio-Clementino Museum with mosaics of the 3rd century BCE) and in aristocratic residences, such as in the noble Cabinet of Palazzo Altieri in Rome.
Based on stylistic analysis, the part of the mosaic with “little stars” on a white background framed by a multicolour meander is from the 1st century BCE; the “emblemata” with fishing scenes is from BCE 200‒300 CE. The assemblage was made in 1781.
The two panels with fishing scenes come from excavations carried out in the 18th century in Castellarcione near Tivoli, a property belonging to the Borghese family.
The provenance is documented in the description of the Villa of 1796 (see Lamberti and Visconti, 1796).
Guadalupi, Gianni, et al., “Villa Borghese”, Grand Tour, no. 30, Milan, 2002.
Lamberti, Luigi, and Visconti, Ennio Quirino, Sculture del Palazzo della Villa Borghese, Rome, 1796.
Moreno, Paolo, and Viacava, Antonella, I marmi antichi della Galleria Borghese: La collezione archeologica di Camillo e Francesco Borghese, Rome, 2003.
Marina Minozzi "Floor mosaic" in [Discover Carpet Art] , Museum With No Frontiers, 2018. http://www.museumwnf.org/thematicgallery/thg_galleries/database_item.php?itemId=objects;DCA;it;Mus32;1;en
Prepared by: Marina MinozziMarina Minozzi
AFFILIATION: Borghese Gallery, Rome
TITLE: Head Art History Co-ordinator
Marina Minozzi, a graduate and specialist in Art History, is currently the Head Art History Co-ordinator at the Borghese Gallery, where she curates the collections from the 18th and 19th centuries and heads the museum’s Documentation Centre. She has published a range of papers, including many on art-collecting in Rome and particularly the Borghese collection. She is currently involved with the Ten Great Exhibitions project underway at the Borghese Gallery, and has written essays on the work of Bernini, Raffaello, Canova and Correggio.
Copyedited by: Mandi Gomez
MWNF Working Number: IT2_001