Thursday, September 26, 2013

Unfolding Pictures: The Cecilia Metella Fan, 1790-1820

Rome, 1790-1820
The Victoria & Albert Museum
This semi-circular fan of painted parchment or vellum with a central kidney-shaped reserve depicts the tomb of Cecilia Metella. Metella was the fourth wife of the Roman dictator Lucius Cornelius Sylla (r. 82-79 BC). Metella’s tom was considered one of the most impressive sights along the Appian Way. Despite the morbid scene, the fan’s overall theme is one of as evidenced by the mosaic pattern of amorini and doves which is adorned by scenes of trailing roses, pansies and strands of wheat.
The micromosaic work on the guards is particularly fine, containing more than 5000 pieces per square inch. Overall, there are three oval mosaic subjects on the guards. It is believed that this Roman fan is the work of craftsmen at the Vatican workshop.

The fan comes to the V&A via Sir Arthur Gilbert and his wife Rosalinde who together amassed one of the world's greatest decorative art collections.

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