224.6 × 540,1 cm. Inv. No. without number.Rome, Museum and Gallery of Villa Borghese
224.6 × 540,1 cm.
Rome, Museum and Gallery of Villa Borghese
(Roma, Museo e Galleria di Villa Borghese).
24. Mosaic showing gladiators and hunting in the circusMarble 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.