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Floor Mosaic with Fishing Scene

Roman art

This mosaic was discovered in the eighteenth century, along with another also in Room 5, among the ruins of a large Roman villa on the Borghese estate at Castell’Arcione, on Via Tiburtina. The mosaic was inserted into the floor of the room during the renovation of the residence led by the architect Antonio Asprucci, and was described, in 1796, by Ennio Quirino Visconti. It represents a fishing scene with two men, one old and one young, sitting in a boat, rendered in lively hues. There are three stylistically similar emblemata, inserted into the floor in Room 7, with heads of sea divinities that might have the same provenance.

Based on stylistic analysis, the mosaic can be dated to between the late second and early third century CE.

Object details

II-III secolo d.C.
marble tesserae
height 145 cm, lenght 170 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, inserted into the floor of the window opening, depicts two fishermen, both with nude torsos, out fishing in a boat. The young man on the left, covered solely by a swath of fabric draped across his pelvis, holds a fishing pole over the water in his right hand, while his left hand holds a net to catch the fish. Behind him, there is a basket ready to be filled with the catch. The older figure on the right wears a cloth around his hips and is turned to the left, looking at his companion out of the corner of his eye. His gaze is emphasised by the white tesserae of his eyes which bring out the colour of his pupils. His right arm is stretched out, holding the rod. The sky is rendered with uniform green and grey tesserae, while the black sea seems to outline and highlight the muscular bodies of the two figures.

The mosaic, and another one also in Room 5, came from a large Roman villa discovered in the eighteenth century on the Borghese estate at Castell’Arcione, on Via Tiburtina (Mari 1933, pp. 250–251, 258–260). In 1796, Ennio Quirino Visconti, confirmed this provenance and described its installation in the room by the architect Antonio Asprucci, who led the renovation and new decoration of the villa in the late eighteenth-century Villa (Visconti, Lamberti 1796, p. 38). In 1940, Marion Elizabeth Blake advanced the theory that the three stylistically similar mosaics with sea themes, inserted into the floor in Room 7, were from the same site (Blake 1940, p. 117, Moreno, Sforzini 1987, p. 345). Blake dated the present mosaic to the Severan period, based on stylistic analysis, more specifically details like the use of black for the sea and the irregular size of the tesserae. In the absence of the chronological contextualisation of the excavated area, the dating of the mosaic can only be confirmed based on style.

Giulia Ciccarello

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  • Scheda di catalogo 12/01008461, P. Moreno 1975; aggiornamento G. Ciccarello 2020.