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Villa Adriana Escultura de los almacenes.

Villa Adriana Escultura de los almacenes.

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To utter the words Villa Adriana (Hadrians Villa) immediately raises expectations. The fame and
prestige that surround this Villa makes everything related to it seem as if it were under a dazzling halo. The sculptures recovered from the Villa are some of the most brilliant examples of Roman art. Nevertheless, when speaking about expectations and sculpture from the Villa Adriana, we must use caution: the case of this Villa has many intricacies and nuances that do indeed crop up. That is how the authors of this study have approached their work, being aware of the constraints of the artifacts comprising the subject matter of our study, the constraints of our objectives, and -accordingly- the constraints of the results of our research.

This is the reason why, from the very beginning, we adopted a simple scheme for our work: one that would be applicable both to the working methodology and to the publication of results. Our task was to establish a catalogue of the sculptural remains preserved in the storerooms of the Villa Adriana, arranging it into a series of thematic chapters and providing a brief assessment of each one of them. The functional nature of this approach fit quite well considering the fact that the sculptural remains were in their overwhelming majority made up of fragments and incomplete pieces. This did not, however, mean that these sculptural remains lacked interest, as their high level of artistic quality was evident, as well as the fact that their themes were both rich and extensive, the pieces had a variety of formats and scales, differing types of marble had been used, and there were traces and clear evidence of the processes they lay behind their creation.

The situation was, thus, quite favorable for investigating new issues in terms of Hadrianic sculpture and to seek answers from within the unexplored sculptural remains from the Villas storerooms. Our research could not ignore relevant traditional issues, but its main aim was to focus on new issues considered to be of great importance today because of the light they shed on essential aspects, such as the type and provenance of the marble used, the details in terms of the techniques and procedures employed by the sculptors, the workshops, the art market, the selection of sculptural orders, etc. Our work could be summed up as a challenge to decipher the specific language of the fragments and to assess their contribution to knowledge on the sculptural ornamentation that can be found at Villa Adriana, on the one hand, as well as our understanding of Hadrianic sculpture, on the other.

The unfortunate fragmentation of the remains thus became a useful instrument to access the inner workings of the piece, so to speak, and to observe the structure of the sculpted marble. Likewise, it facilitated archaeometric studies - in particular, marble analysis. The fragmented state of the material allowed, in addition, observations to be made about old breaks, added pieces, seams, touch ups, and traces of the various steps taken by the sculptor throughout the creative process.

This new and attractive way to approach the sculptures at Villa Adriana had a serious downside which revolved around the problem of the origin of the marble artifacts that had been kept in the storerooms. On the one hand, there is no valid documentation in that regard, and any documentation which has survived is insignificant. Traditionally, the provenance was considered to be Villa Adriana, and it is only natural for that to be the case for the vast majority of the pieces as there is a certain degree of homogeneity in terms of marble, artistic quality, technical details, etc. However, it cannot be ruled out that some of the pieces kept in the storerooms come from somewhere not related with the Villa. Likewise, the absence of information extended to questions of origin inside the Villa itself, so much so that this informational void regrettably underscores our knowledge on key issues such as the function and location of the sculptures and the sculptural cycles. Only on very few occasions are any indications in that regard found, such as, for example, the initials P.O., probably making reference to the Piazza dOro (Golden Square). To cite a
single example of interest, consider the repercussions that this situation has on something as prevalent in the ornamental sculptures of Villa Adriana as the duplicates, triplicates, and further repetitions of sculptural works. The thematic content of the fragments leads one to understand that the uniformity or disparity of the sculptural works, themes, and motifs probably depended on the range of spaces where the sculptures were intended to be placed, as well as on the surrounding landscape and the atmosphere that was sought to be evoked or recreated.

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