Mosaic with Hunting Scenes

Mosaic with hunting scene (Early IVth century AD) by UnknownCentrale Montemartini

The magnificent mosaic with hunting scenes is located in the center of the Sala Caldaie in Centrale Montemartini.

It was accidentally discovered in Rome in 1903 during the works for the construction of the railway underpass at the church of S. Bibiana, in the Esquilino district.

The long mosaic carpet (15 meters long and 5.50 meters wide in the preserved part) of early IVth century AD, was formerly intended to decorate a portico or a large reception room of a luxurious home.
The high quality images, and the exceptional dimensions, let suppose that it belongs to an exceptional urban context, perhaps an imperial property.

Originally the figured scene was enclosed within a large frame with black and white tesserae. Nowaday, only a fragment with current wave decoration is preserved.

The mosaic represents in lively polychrome - with tesserae of palombino, basalt, limestone and glass pastes - scenes of wild animals hunting.

The episodes take place on a neutral background and are set on two opposite sides, each facing outwards.
This arrangement allows the correct viewing of the images from the two sides of the room walking the porch in two directions.

Capture of wild animals in the Roman world was functional to the use of fairs in games that took place in the amphitheater; in general, this activity was a prerogative of the highest offices of the state or the emperor himself.

In the capture of the antelopes, two hunters, accompanied by four dogs, chase the animals that, frightened, flee to the left.

Below, among the trees, a net is stretched. At the top right a sort of house is recognizable, probably a hunting shed.

Below, among the trees, a net is stretched. At the top right a sort of house is recognizable, probably a hunting shed.

One of the hunters is represented half-length behind a hill, an expedient used to give an illusion of depth to the scene.

The two men wear a short knee-length tunic, held at the waist by a belt and equipped with narrow sleeves with double chevron on the wrists; the legs, up to below the knee, are protected by some woolen bands called fasciae crurales; the shoulders are covered by a cape.

The other side of the mosaic, more complete, depicts on the left a scene of bear hunting: the fairs, pushed forward and contained by the nets, are forced to head towards a box with a slide on the opening, equipped with a gate operated by a hunter. The case, reinforced by iron bars, has a ham hanging from the mouth, used as a bait.

Two pursuers with spades and rattles direct the bears towards the cage. All men participating the hunting trip wear a blue tunic fastened with a cord and covered on the shoulders by a hooded cloak (paenula)

On the same side, there is the representation of a boar hunt.

A man on horseback, probably the main and most important character, has his right arm raised: he has just thrown a javelin that hit the boar, pictured on the right.

The animal, wounded in the side, seems to have a last jolt against the attacker and the dogs that hunt him.

The hunter has an elongated face, characterized by carefully drawn features, has a short beard; dresses the tunic with sleeves and a short cape tied around the neck.

The robe is decorated with an embroidery on the hem, while the horse's edging is embellished with tassels that end with a heart-shaped leaflet and the saddle is made up of a sort of fabric cushion.

Credits: Story

Serena Guglielmi, curator
Museo Centrale Montemartini, Rome

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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