The Restoration of two ancient roman altars
now at Uffizi Gallery, Florence

The Romualdo Del Bianco Foundation, following the recommendation of the Soprintendenza per il Polo Museale Fiorentino, has promoted the restoration of two ancient roman altars, now at Uffizi Gallery. The Vivahotels, a Florentine hotel group, through its program of protection of artistic heritage named “Be part of History” will support this restoration, which will be made by Dr. Camilla Mancini with the superintendence of the Director of Archaeological Department of Uffizi Gallery, Dr. Antonella Romualdi.
Here below are some images and information about the ancient roman finds. Other information could be received by writing to
info@fondazione-delbianco.org

Altar inv. 954

This  is the funerary monument of Cneus Sentius Felix, a very notable and influental figure of the roman society of Ostia, between the end of the Ist and the beginning of the IInd century a.c.

The altar, sculpted in marble coming from the caves of Monti Appuani, was found in 1696 among the ruins of ancient Ostia. After having been exposed in Rome, in Aventino, it was brought to Florence, to Palazzo del Rosso. It has finally arrived at the Galery in the 18th century.

The architectural decoration and the long inscription on it connote it as one of the most significant and prestigious altar of the period. The long inscription provides an extraordinary view on the civil, economic and commercial  life of the  big roman port. In our days we would say that the defunct had excellent managing abilities and dealt with sea transportation and sea trade, especcially wine importation. He was a member of the Adriatic Sea Transporters Association and patron (kind of an honorary title) of wheat measurers, oil traders, those in charge of public weighing, ferrymen and boatmen, as well as the fishermen”s, who resold by retail the fruit of their work.

Cneus Sentius Felix also accorded its patronage to some youth association dedicated to sports and military fighting, these last one though only in case if they didnt suppose blood sheding.

 

The restoration and the following increase in value of this important monument not only gives the possiblity to Cneus Sentius Felix to become well known and remembered after… almost 20 centuries! But it also allows us to enter the turbulent and multicoloured life of the big port of Rome between the age of Trajan and that of Adrian.

Altar inv. 988.

The place of provenance and the year or the century of  “birth” of this funerary monument, erected in memory of a  freedman of greek origins, Dionysus Skianthi, are not known even nowdays. We can find documents on its transportation to the Medici Riccardi Palce from the 18th century. It has been kept during the 19th century in the Sala delle Iscizioni.

The monument, sculpted from greek marble, is one of the most refined and precious exemples known of the so called festoon altars. The bas-relief decorations on the front and on the sides are of particular excellence, both for the artistic quality and the symbolic choice of the represented motives. On the front side, the fight of cocks surely refers to the energy and the physical  and also moral force of the defunct during his life, that can even guarantee him appreciation afterlife. Even the defunct is represented during his travel through the sea, transported softly on the back of a imaginary sea animal, kind of a huge snake, that would help him to cross the unfathomable border between life and death, which frightens, but in the same time fascinate human beings. On the sides, we can see birds around  a butterfly, symbol of psyche according to ancients. The quality and the beutiy of the flowers and fruits that always accompanied ritual ceremonies for defuncts now almost invisible because of the bad condition  and the dirtiness that marks the monument.The cleaning and the restoration would allow to understand the imagination  and the skills that characterized the  roman lapidary workshops in the first half of the first century a.c.

 
 
 
 
 
 

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