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Sacrifice at the Villa Medici

Below the temple reliefs are two accompanying scenes, one of a garlanded bull being led to sacrifice (which was paired with the Temple of Magna Mater), the other a bull being sacrificed (paired with the Temple of Mars Ultor). The slightly darker areas tend to show the outline of the original fragments, which, placed in the garden wall of the Villa Medici, were augmented with additional figures and ornaments to fit the spaces designed for them.

Just as these reliefs initially were thought to have belonged to the Ara Pacis Augustae, so a large panel showing festoons and an ox skull (from the practice of draping sacrificial oxen with garlands) that had decorated the interior walls of that altar is embedded in the faade of the villa. And, fittingly, plaster casts of the four Medici reliefs (below) are displayed in the gallery on the lower floor of the Museo dell'Ara Pacis.

This relief shows the Temple of Magna Mater (Cybele, the "Great Mother") on the Palatine and, like the Temple of Mars Ultor, is nestled under the eave of the villa's roof, one on each side of the loggia. In the pediment of the temple is a central throne holding a mural crown, in which the walls or battlements decorating it signify protection of the city by its tutelary deity. On either side of Cybele are reclining figures, each holding a tympanum, a type of frame drum associated with her rites. In the corners are crouching lions, sacred to the goddess and usually depicted as flanking her throne or drawing her cart.

One can see from these casts (original photographs by Prof. Charles Rhyne) that there was considerable restoration (and embellishment) when the fragments were placed in the faade of the villa.

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