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Bill Thayer

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BASIC REFERENCE: Platner's Topographical Dictionary - Arcus Argentariorum

Non Arcus, Sed Arca: A Banker's Chest

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The monument is in fact not an arch; but built by bankers who could afford it, it is made of solid marble: the brick you see is a later repair.

Artistically, well, opinions differ: Platner says "the whole exterior surface is adorned either with coarse decorative sculpture or reliefs representing sacrificial scenes". My take on it is rather the reverse: the garlands and ornamental work are rather good, but the reliefs are lumpy and unattractive. This monument reminds me more of a decorated ivory casket, or of an uninspired painting in a very nice frame.

I think the reliefs were better when new; the sculptural effect must have depended on a contrast between the polished surfaces of the reliefs and the incised patterns of the "frame"; the erosion of the relatively soft marble has brought out the sculpture's intrinsic weakness and lack of character.

→ Not quite all marble: the base is travertine, the tough structural material in the ancient city. Notice the difference in color and roughness.

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Page updated: 23 Jan 00