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  • Lori-Ann Touchette

Reconstruction of a Polychrome Terracotta Temple Pediment

The Capitoline Museums contains the reconstruction of a polychrome terracotta temple pediment dated to the mid 2nd century BC). Discovered in several hundred fragments in the late 19th century in via San Gregorio, the road that runs from the Circus Maximus to the Colosseum, the pediment represents the most complete example of a late Republican temple pediment found in Rome. After 10 years of restoration and study, the pediment was presented in an exhibition in 2002 and is now on permanent display. The identity of the temple is disputed. The two main contenders are a temple of Fortuna Respiciens on the Palatine or a temple of Mars on the Caelian Hill.

The high-relief pediment is estimated to have been 14 meters wide (almost 46 feet). In the center, Mars is flanked by two female deities. Three bare-chested servants lead six animals from each side towards the togate figure who is about to perform a sacrifice to the gods. A section of the terracotta sima (ornaments moulding) survives as well with two acroterial figures of Hercules and the liberation of Hesione from the sea-monster.

Noteworthy is the well-preserved colour on the statues. The hand-modelled figures were low-fired(c 650-700 Celsius) and then painted. The porosity of the terracotta made possible its conservation. Not only are the male and female figures differentiated by skin tone, for example the red body of Hercules and the cream-coloured face of Hesione (complete with a tear!), but the clothing of the figures was also picked out in colour. Yellow and red occur on the sea monster whereas additional colours are found on the sima (black, blue, brown and dark red).

The use of terracotta is prevalent in this period due to the absence of a local marble source. Contemporary are the first marble temples in the Forum Boarium, composed of imported Greek marble.

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