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Floor Mosaic with Fishing Scene

Roman art

The central emblem, which is set within a polychrome frame with a plaited pattern and acanthus leaves in the corners, depicts a fishing scene, with two men in a boat and a fish on the right. In antiquity, it was inserted into a pre-existing floor from the late Republican period, decorated with a pattern of small crosses and surrounded by a wide, polychrome perspectival meander frame.

This mosaic, and another one of the same subject also in Room 5, was discovered in the eighteenth century during excavations on the Borghese estate at Castell’Arcione, on Via Tiburtina. Based on stylistic analysis, the mosaic can be dated to between the end of the second and beginning of the third century CE.

Object details

II-III secolo d.C.
marble tesserae
height 165 cm; lenght 224 cm, including the frame

Discovered during eighteenth-century excavations at the Castell’Arcione estate on Via Tiburtina (Visconti, Lamberti, p. 38). Purchased by the Italian State, 1902.

Conservation and Diagnostic
  • 1989 Consorzio ARKE'


This mosaic was discovered in the eighteenth century, along with another one also in Room 5, among the ruins of a large Roman villa on the Borghese estate at Castell’Arcione, on Via Tiburtina (Mari 1983, pp. 250–251, 258–260). In 1706, Ennio Quirino Visconti reported that the mosaics were in the room, decorated a few years earlier by the architect Antonio Asprucci, and confirmed their provenance (Visconti, Lamberti 1796, p. 38). Three mosaics with sea themes, currently inserted into the floor in Room 7 and with similar stylistic features, might come from the same location (Blake 1940, p. 117, Moreno, Sforzini 1987, p. 345).

This mosaic, displayed in the middle of the room, can be dated to the Severan period due to features like the black background of the sea and the irregular size of the tesserae. It is surrounded by a frame with a plaited pattern and acanthus leaves in the corners that probably dates to the eighteenth-century redecoration. The fishing scene and frame were inserted into a late-Republican mosaic floor decorated with black, four-tessera crosses against a white background and surrounded by a polychrome perspectival meander frame given depth through the alternation of green, red and yellow tesserae. The central emblem depicts two men in a boat. The one on the left wears an exomis, a short tunic that leaves one shoulder bare, and is casting a net. The one on the right, seated and with a bare chest, turns to his companion while holding the oar. The two men seem to be exchanging a quick glance. On the right, a fish jumps out of the water, which is described in strongly contrasting hues, using white and green tesserae to define the ripples against a black background.

As observed by Marion Elizabeth Blake in 1940, the mosaic combines pieces from two different periods: a scene dating to the Severan period inserted within a late-Republican decorative mosaic.

Giulia Ciccarello

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  • A. Nibby, Monumenti scelti della Villa Borghese, Roma 1832, p. 97.
  • Indicazione delle opere antiche di scultura esistenti nel primo piano della Villa Borghese, Roma 1840, p. 19.
  • A. Nibby, Roma nell’anno 1838, Roma 1841, p. 920.
  • Indicazione delle opere antiche di scultura esistenti nel primo piano della Villa Borghese, Roma 1854 (1873), p. 22.
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  • M. E. Blake, Mosaics of the Late Empire in Rome and Vicinity, “Memoirs of the American Academy in Rome”, 1940, pp. 117-118, tav. 32, 2.
  • P. Della Pergola, La Galleria Borghese in Roma, (3° Edizione), Roma 1954, p. 17.
  • W. Helbig, H. Speier, Führer durch die öffentlichen Sammlungen klassischer.Altertümer in Rom, (4°Edizione), a cura di H. Speier, II, Tübingen 1966, p. 737, n. 1982 (Parlasca).
  • P. Moreno, Museo e la Galleria Borghese, La collezione archeologica, Roma 1980, p. 17.
  • P. Moreno, S. Staccioli, Le collezioni della Galleria Borghese, Milano 1981, p. 102, fig. a p. 93.
  • Z. Mari, Forma Italiae, Regio I Volumen XVII, Tibur, Pars Tertia, Firenze 1983, pp. 250-251, n. 290; pp. 258-260.
  • P. Moreno, C. Sforzini, I ministri del principe Camillo: cronaca della collezione Borghese di antichità dal 1807 al 1832, in “Scienze dell’Antichità”, 1, 1987, pp. 339-371, in part. p. 345.
  • E. Moscetti, Proposta di un Parco archeologico-naturale in Guidonia Montecelio, in “Atti e memorie della Società Tiburtina di Storia e Arte, 2, vol. LXIV, 1991, pp. 139-179, in particolare p. 163, n. 46.
  • R. Lanciani, Storia degli scavi di Roma e notizie intorno le collezioni romane di antichità, V, Roma 1994, p. 29.
  • K. Werner, Mosaiken aus Rom. Polychrome Mosaikpavimente und Emblemata aus Rom und Umgebung, Würzburg 1994, p. 247, K 106.
  • A. Donati, P. Pasini, Pesca e pescatori nell’antichità, Milano 1997, fig. a p. 56.
  • P. Moreno, A. Viacava, I marmi antichi della Galleria Borghese: la collezione archeologica di Camillo e Francesco Borghese, Roma 2003, pp. 219-220, n. 205B.
  • Scheda di catalogo 12/01008460, P. Moreno 1975; aggiornamento G. Ciccarello 2020.