Hunting for wild animals in the arena
Mosaic from the Villa Borghese.
3rd century.
224.6 × 540,1 cm.
Inv. No. without number.Rome, Museum and Gallery of Villa Borghese

Hunting for wild animals in the arena.

Mosaic from the Villa Borghese.
3rd century.
224.6 × 540,1 cm.
Inv. No. without number.

Rome, Museum and Gallery of Villa Borghese
(Roma, Museo e Galleria di Villa Borghese).

Private collection, Borghese.
Roman art
(A.D. 320—330)

24. Mosaic showing gladiators and hunting in the circus

Marble and limestone tesserae
224.6 × 540,1 cm
Without inv. no.

This is a large floor discovered by peasants on the Torrenuova estate, on the Via Casilina, on 20 August 1834. The mosaic, consisting of polychrome tesserae, adorned the cryptoporticus of a villa. Detached in sections and taken to the Casino dell’Orologio at the Villa Borghese, it was restored by Gaetano Ruspi and Filippo Scaccia, who installed it in the hall. The lacunae and the restored parts make it difficult to interpret the mosaic as a whole, but, in any case, the composition was not organic, as may be seen from the fact that some of the figures are out of proportion. The fragment in the centre of the hall represents two different scenes: a group of men knocked down and wounded by a bull and an episode of hunting, in which two men are attacking a group of animals. In this scene Sabatius is fighting a large brown bull, and there is also a multicoloured ostrich, an antelope and a stag with large antlers; in the foreground, another hunter is about to kill a lion. In another section, a panther is being hunted: in the upper register are four animals, three of which have been pierced by the hunters’ spears; in the lower one, there is another dead animal, and two hunters spearing felines. Of particular interest is the scene with the gladiator Alumnus, who has killed the secutor (pursuer) Mazicianus, depicted supine in his own blood. Alumnus is one of the most striking figures: on his left arm he is wearing a sleeve (a piece of armour) executed with tesserae of colours ranging from red to yellow and green. Around his body, a white subligaculum (waistband) with grey streaks is held in place by a brightly coloured baldric. The interest aroused by the representations of combats, hunting and killing is demonstrated by the presence of the names of the contenders: next to the fallen is the Greek letter theta, the first letter of thanatos, death. The natural space is greatly reduced; the use of large tesserae indicates that the technique of the mosaicists has prevailed over the original design; rather than modelling the figures, the colours have a mainly decorative effect.

Paolo Moreno, Chiara Stefani (2000)
© 1998. Photo, text: V. Tarnovskij. Gladiatory. Izd-vo «Slovo», 1998. P. 44.
© 1987. Tessloff Verlag, Nürnberg.
© 2000. Description: Paolo Moreno, Chiara Stefani. The Borghese Gallery (Heritage Guides). Touring Club Italiano, 2000. P. 61, cat. no. 24.
Keywords: μωσαϊκό mosaic mosaics mosaica mosaici mosaik mosaïque ρώμη rome roman roma romano rom römisches romaine lion leone löwe leo λιοντάρι from the borghese collection dalla collezione aus der borghese-sammlung bull toro stier taureau taurus βόδι ταύρος animals beasts animali bestie tiere animaux ζώα floor pavement mosaico pavimentale bodenmosaik de sol antelope antilope hunting scene hunt scena di caccia jagdszene jagd scène chasse ostrich struzzo strauß autruche strutionum wounded ferito verwundeter blessé τραυματισμένο wild animal animale selvatico wildes tier sauvage gladiator gladiators gladiatore gladiatori gladiatoren gladiateur gladiateurs μονομάχος μονομάχοι boar cinghiale wildschwein keiler sanglier gladiatorial fight lotta dei gladiatorenkampf combat venatio venationes bestiaire bestiarius bestiarii venator hunting-spear lancia da jagdspeer speer lance venabulum men’s underwear biancheria intima intimo maschile uomo unterwäsche männerunterwäsche sous-vêtements pour hommes villa sabatius inv no without number