THE MARBLES OF ANCIENT ROME

More extensively employed in Greek and Roman statuary and architecture was the Marmor Pentelicum, or Marmo Greco fino of the modern Italians. The quarries which yielded inexhaustible materials for the public buildings and statues of Greece, and for the great monuments of Rome, were situated on the slopes of Mount Pentelicus, near Athens; and after having been closed for ages, have recently been reopened for the restoration of some of the buildings in the Greek capital. The marble is dazzlingly white and fine-grained, but it sometimes contains little pieces of quartz or flint, which give some trouble to the workmen. The Parthenon, crowning like a perfect capital of human art the summit of Nature's rough workmanship in the Acropolis, was built of this marble; and the immortal sculpture of Pheidias on the metopes, the frieze of the cella, and the tympana of the pediments of the temple, known as the Elgin Marbles, were carved out of a material worthy of their incomparable beauty. Innumerable specimens at one time existed in Rome. The arch of Septimius Severus and the Arch of Titus are built of it, although the rusty and weather-beaten hue of these venerable monuments hides the nature of the material. Domitian, who restored the celebrated Temple of Jupiter on the Capitol, procured columns of Pentelic marble for the purpose from Athens; two of these are now in the nave of the church of Ara Coeli, built upon the site of the temple; and portions of the others, and of the marble decorations, were presented by the magistrates to the Franciscan friars of the neighbouring convent, and by them were wrought in 1348 into the conspicuous staircase leading to the façade of the church, which pious Catholics used to mount on their knees in the manner of the ancient worshippers of Jupiter. Among the statues wrought of this marble may be mentioned the famous group of the Laocoon found in the Baths of Titus; the beautiful Venus de Medici, discovered in the Villa of Hadrian, near Tivoli, and now in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence; and the well-known "Farnese Bull," sculptured out of a single block of huge dimensions, unearthed out of the ruins of the Baths of Caracalla, and now in the Museum of Naples. Massimo d'Azeglio, in his Recollections, gives an interesting instance of the value set upon this marble by modern Roman sculptors. Pacetti having purchased an ancient Greek statue of the best period in Pentelic marble, greatly mutilated, and wishing to repair it, could find nothing among the best products of the Carrara quarries to match the marble in purity and fineness of texture, and was therefore obliged to destroy another Greek statue of inferior merit in order to get materials for the restoration. From this combination he succeeded in producing the sleeping figure known as the Barberini Faun, whose forcible abduction by the Pontifical Government on the eve of its being sold to a German prince, so preyed upon the mind of the cruelly-wronged sculptor, that he took to his bed and died.

Very like Pentelic marble, but easily distinguishable, is the Marmor Porinum, the Marmo Grechetto duro of the Italians. It is intermediate in the quality of its grain between Parian and Pentelic marble, being finer than the former and not so fine as the latter. The column in front of the Church of Santa Maria Maggiore, removed by Paul V. in 1614 from the Basilica of Constantine, is composed of this species; as well as the celebrated Torso Belvedere of the Vatican, found near the site of the Theatre of Pompey, to which Michael Angelo traced much of his inspiration, and which, as we learn from a Greek Inscription at the base, was the work of the Rhodian sculptor Apollonios, who carved the group of the "Farnese Bull."