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Κυριακή, 24 Δεκεμβρίου 2017

A historic dilemma on the Furietti Centaurs' structural marbles: bigio morato from Göktepe (Turkey) or black marble (nero antico) from cape Taenaron (Greece)?

Old centaur from Hadrian's Villa,in Palazzo
 Nuovo of the Capitoline Museums,Rome.
[by Dr. Peter G. Tzeferis]

The master sculptures of the two Centaurs were discovered in December 1736 during excavations in the Accademia carried by Cardinal Giuseppe Alessandro Furietti, an antiquarian and philologist. Only a few days after obtaining rights to excavate a section of Hadrian’s Villa, Furietti’s team unearthed the famous statues of Centaurs known today as the “Furietti Centaurs”. Both Centaurs were found broken but in remarkably complete condition.

The two masterpieces quickly became two of the most celebrated sculptures in Rome, partly through two engravings made in 1738 and 1739 under Furietti’s supervision. They were displayed for some thirty years in Furietti’s apartments in the Palazzo Montecitorio in Rome until 1765 when Clemente XIII purchased them to be donated to the Capitoline Museum where they have been displayed in the main hall of the Palazzo Nuovo. The statues are generally assumed to be a copy of a late 2nd century BC bronze Hellenistic original.

The Old bearded Centaur, with a pained expression, is depicted with tied hands in the back, his head and torso strongly inclined to the right and leaning backwards. His right front leg is raised and his tail falls on the right side. On the back, a slight unpolished depression shows that a small Eros, the winged god of love, used to sit astride the Centaur’s back.

Young centaur from Hadrian's Villa,
Capitoline museums, Rome.
The Young Centaur, with a joyous face, is depicted with his right arm raised and holding a lagobolon (a stick used for hunting hares) in his left hand. A wild boar’ skin is hanging down over his left harm. His head and torso are strongly inclined to the left while leaning backwards and his right front leg is raised. A small Eros once rode the back of the centaur.

Art and sculptures from Hadrian’s Villa: The Furietti Centaurs

The two Centaurs were created by Aristeas and Papias of Aphrodisias who may also have carved the so-called “Fauno rosso” (red faun). The sculptors’ signatures have survived and can be seen on the plinths of both sculptures.

The sculptures became very famous due to their sculptors’ outstanding workmanship and the rarity and high quality of their materials (marble). The sculptural marble of the two (so called)   Ragionieri Greci was considered (for centuries) to be the black marble from Cape Tainaron in Mani Peninsula, southern Peloponnese  ("Nero Antico"). This based on a passage in Pliny (NH36.29) that was interpreted by Faustino Corsi in his 19th century treatise on ancient marbles. The origin of Nero Antico was traditionally associated with ancient quarries presumed to be in the area of the Cape Tainaron promontory on the basis of the above mentioned passage in Pline and Corsi.

Actually, in Corsi's classification, of 1845,  nero antico is considered "the Marmor Taenarium. A black marble that Pausanias called Taenarian (Tenario) used to be extracted from the Taenarian promontory in Laconia. Beautiful examples of this marble can be seen in the Capitoline Museum, but the largest piece known is a superb table in the Palazzo Altemps". 

Pausanius does not mention marble or a quarry in connection with the promontory of Taenarum only a temple like a cave, with a statue of Poseidon in front of it. Moreover, when Corsi wrote about nero antico in 1845, he uses the less positive subjunctive mood ("il congiuntivo") suggesting he was not sure of the correspondence between nero antico and Taenarian marble. 'Reasonably therefore it could be said that the Taenarian marble ("marmor tenario") might correspond ("corrisponda") with that said to be nero antico. It turns out that he was historically correct; black limestone (nero antico) was quarried on the Mani peninsular in antiquity but probably not in large quantities.

Statua di Centauro anziano
Statua di giovane Centauro in bigio morato
Faustino Corsi and his collection in Rome
Τα Μάρμαρα της Μάνης: Rosso Antico, Nero Antico και υπόλευκο Διρού

However, according to more recent scientific evidence provided by the attached documents (mostly in chapter 8 pp. 103-112, Hadrian's Villa and the Use of the Aphrodisian marbles from the Göktepe quarries), after the disovery of the Göktepe quarries, the Carian quarry site (in Asia Minor, Turkey, 2006) must be considered the principal source, if not actually the only one, of the Nero Antico and the bigio morato used in Hadrian's Villa and elsewhere in Roman Times.
The Göktepe quarries discovered in 2006, produced high-quality, fine-grained white, as well as black, grey and bichrome marble. The quarries are located approximately 40 km south of Aphrodisias in Caria and their discovery has provided an unexpected and significant contribution to the knowledge of the use of white and colored marbles in Roman antiquity.

The Göktepe quarries discovered in 2006,
near ancient Aphrodisia  in Caria, Turkey.
This quarry district, produced two varieties of statuary marble, a black and a white one, but also a less frequent grey variety, and limited amounts of a black-and-white marble.  These different varieties of marbles were used mostly by Aphrodisian artists and became well established in Italy at the beginning of the 2nd century AD.

See also, Statua di Centauro anziano Attanasio, Donato et al. “APHRODISIAN MARBLE FROM THE GÖKTEPE QUARRIES: THE LITTLE BARBARIANS, ROMAN COPIES FROM THE ATTALID DEDICATION IN ATHENS.” Papers of the British School at Rome, vol. 80, 2012, pp. 65–87.

So, according to the recent surveys and data, it seems that the  two centaurs of the Hadrian's Villa were carved in bigio morato marble from the quarries of Göktepe near Aphrodisias in Caria (modern-day Turkey).The Göktepe marbles were among the most prized statuary marbles which formed part of the decorative programme of Hadrian’s Villa and other Roman similar projects.
Erme femminili di età augustea, forse le danaidi, in nero antico e porfido (questa in larga parte ricreata), dall'area del tempio di apollo al palatino 01
Ancient Roman statues of the three Danaides in the Antiquarium del Palatino (Rome)
According to the same authors, to date, the only black marble sculptures known to be made using a quality of Nero Antico different from that of the Göktepe  are the three  Danaides of the House of Augustus on the Palatine hill in Rome, produced in a black Greek marble from the Peloponnesus, macroscopically similar, but analytically quite different.

In another research paper of 2015, one hundred fifty seven Roman Imperial portraits were investigated using isotopic and grain size analyses with the aim of obtaining quantitative data on theuse of sculptural marble. Approximately half of the portraits (48%) were found to be Göktepe with Parian lychnites following at great distance (21%). A  change, however, happened in Hadrian’s time when the use of lychnites sharply reduced to 10-15% and was replaced by Göktepe (60%) that became the statuary marble par excellence, a trend that continued and grew further in later times.

ASMOSIA XI INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE.Association for the Study of Marble & Other Stones in Antiquity. Split, THE MARBLE OF ROMAN IMPERIAL PORTRAITS, pp. 49-50, Croatia, 18 – 22 MAY 2015.