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Base of Flavia Variana

Roman art


This four-sided base has moulding at the top and bottom. The sides are decorated with representations of the tools used for ritual sacrifice: a patera and a small pitcher. The funerary inscription is dedicated to Flavia Variana, in honour of her father, Titus Flavius Crescente, an imperial freedman and distinguished public servant. The sculpture was unearthed during the Borghese excavations carried out in 1792 by the artist Gavin Hamilton in the ancient city of Gabii, on the via Prenestina. It is datable to the Flavian period, in the first century CE.


Object details

Inventory
LXXXVa
Location
Date
1st century A.D.
Classification
Medium
Luni marble
Dimensions
height 80 cm; width 68 cm; depth 40 cm; letter height 3.5 cm
Provenance

Unearthed during the Borghese excavations in 1792 at Pantano dei Grifi, on the via Prenestina (Visconti 1797, p. 141, no. 5). Inventario Fidecommissario Borghese, 1833, not cited in a way that is securely identifiable, but it might be the cippus with a seated Apollo on top (inv. II), C., p. 42, no. 12. Purchased by the Italian State, 1902.

Inscriptions

FL(AVIAE) T(ITI) FI(LIAE) VARIAN(A)E

OB MERITA

CRESCENTIS

AUGUSTOR(UM) LIB(ERTI) PATRIS EIUS

QUI OMNES HONORES

MUNICIPI N(OSTRI) DELATOS SIBI

SINCERA FIDE GESSIT

DEC(URIONES) POPULUSQ(UE)

Conservation and Diagnostic
  • 1996-97 Liana Persichelli

Commentary

This base was unearthed during excavations carried out in 1792 by the artist and archaeologist Gavin Hamilton on the Borghese estate at Pantano dei Grifi, on the via Prenestina, during which the forum of the ancient city of Gabii was identified. Visconti, who published the discoveries in 1797, complete with a reconstruction of the monument, included a few bases with statues on top, one of which Cima identified, in 2005, as possibly the Borghese base (Visconti 1797, p. 141, no. 5; Cima 2005, pp. 51–52, note 22). The vast number of sculptures unearthed during the excavations led Prince Marcantonio Borghese to create a museum called the Museo Gabino inside the Villa Pinciana in the rooms of the Casino dell’Orologio. The display of the works was curated by the architect Antonio Asprucci (Cima 2003, pp. 131–144). The altar was not included in the sale of almost the entire collection to Napoleon in 1807. When what was left of the collection was reorganised, it was displayed in the Portico, where it was cited by Nibby in 1832 (pp. 35–36). In 1893, Venturi reported that it was on view in its current location in Room II (p. 27).

The upper moulding of the four-sided base is composed of a listel, a cyma recta, a second listel and a cyma reversa, while the lower moulding comprises a listel, a cyma reversa and a second listel. On the right and left sides are ritual symbols: respectively, a bowl for libations called a patera and a small pitcher called an urceus. There is an eight-line funerary inscription dedicated to Flavia Variana on the front:

FL(AVIAE) T(ITI) FI(LIAE) VARIAN(A)E

OB MERITA

CRESCENTIS

AUGUSTOR(UM) LIB(ERTI) PATRIS EIUS

QUI OMNES HONORES

MUNICIPI N(OSTRI) DELATOS SIBI

SINCERA FIDE GESSIT

DEC(URIONES) POPULUSQ(UE)

The base was in all likelihood used for an honorary statue of Flavia Variana erected by the decurions and people of Gabii to celebrate the distinguished merits of her father, the freedman of the Augusti Titus Flavius Crescente, as a public servant. The sculpture is datable to the Flavian period, in the first century CE.

Giulia Ciccarello




Bibliography
  • E.Q. Visconti, Monumenti Gabini della Villa Pinciana, Roma 1797, p. 141, n. 5.
  • A. Nibby, Monumenti scelti della Villa Borghese, Roma 1832, pp. 35-36.
  • Indicazione delle opere antiche di scultura esistenti nel primo piano della Villa Borghese, Roma 1840, p. 7, n. 28.
  • A. Nibby, Roma nell’anno 1838, Roma 1841, p. 910, n. 28.
  • Indicazione delle opere antiche di scultura esistenti nel primo piano del Palazzo della Villa Borghese, Roma 1854 (1873), I, p. 8, n. 37.
  • Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum, XIV, 1887, 2807.
  • A. Venturi, Il Museo e la Galleria Borghese, Roma 1893, p. 27.
  • P. Della Pergola, La Galleria Borghese in Roma, (3° Edizione) Roma 1954, p. 10.
  • R. Calza, Catalogo del Gabinetto fotografico Nazionale, Galleria Borghese, Collezione degli oggetti antichi, Roma 1957, p. 19, n. 224.
  • P. Moreno, Formazione della raccolta di antichità del Museo e Galleria Borghese, in “Colloqui del Sodalizio”, 1975-1976, p. 138.
  • P. Moreno, Museo e Galleria Borghese, La collezione archeologica, Roma 1980, pp. 13-14.
  • R. Lanciani, Storia degli scavi di Roma e notizie intorno le collezioni romane di antichità, V, Roma 1994, p. 35.
  • P. Moreno, C. Stefani, Galleria Borghese, Milano 2000, p. 188, n. 10b.
  • P. Moreno, A. Viacava, I marmi antichi della Galleria Borghese. La collezione archeologica di Camillo e Francesco Borghese, Roma 2003, pp. 169-170, n. 142.
  • M. Cima, Gabii. La scoperta di una città antica a Pantano Borghese, in Villa Borghese. I principi, le arti, la città dal Settecento all’Ottocento, a cura di A. Campitelli, Milano 2003, 131-144.
  • M. Cima, Gavin Hamilton a Gabii. Gli scavi settecenteschi di Pantano Borghese, in Villa Borghese. Storia e gestione, a cura di A. Campitelli, Roma 2005, pp. 43-55.
  • Scheda di catalogo 12/00147827, P. Moreno 1975; aggiornamento G. Ciccarello 2020.