Wednesday, 6 May 2009
From the files: Roman birdbath
In my early teens I was dragged off to Italy by my parents to visit Rome and Florence. [I just typed this in Word and this is what it suggested I should write instead: ‘My parents to visit Rome and Florence dragged me off to Italy’]. My dad was obsessed by Michelangelo and the Renaissance in general, but two weeks of being Michelangeloed left me cold. I preferred the other turtle, Donatello, whose sculpture seemed much more human and easier to relate to.
Anyway, I came away from the trip with only two (physical) souvenirs. One was a print of a drawing of an old man’s head by some old master or other, which long ago curled up and fell off the wall, and the other was this postcard, from the Musei Capitolini, of four pigeons having a drink from a silver bowl. It’s called the 'Mosaic of the Doves' and was dug up (the mosaic, not the postcard) at Hadrian’s villa, Tivoli by Cardinal Alessandro Furietti in 1737. It’s said to be a Roman copy of an original 2nd century BC Greek mosaic from Pergamon, attributed to Sosos.
I didn’t know at the time that it was famous; I was just struck by the movement in it, which I hadn’t seen anywhere else, and wondered how it had been achieved, so I bought the postcard to copy. It remains one of my favourite images.
You might think that I’ve scanned it at an angle but in fact it’s just a low quality, slightly wonky postcard. There’s a better version of it here, which perhaps I should have used instead.