Cork model of the Temple of Vesta
CORK MODEL OF THE TEMPLE OF VESTA
Situated on a high cliff in Tivoli, a small town in the vicinity of Rome, is a round temple dedicated to Vesta, the goddess of the hearth. This temple has been a tourist attraction for many centuries.
Anyone visiting this temple today would probably take a photo or film it, but before the invention of photography travellers bought prints or drawings as souvenirs. However, when interest in classical architecture began to revive from the second half of the 18th century onwards, travellers needed to be able to study representations of the most important monuments in three-dimensional form – even after they had returned home.
This need was met by cork models made to scale. They were manufactured using a technique which had been in existence for some time; it was already widely employed for the production of Christmas cribs in the kingdom of Naples. Cork models of classical buildings became fashionable during the second half of the 18th century even though they were highly priced. Not only were the models expensive, but the cost of transporting them home was also high.
One of the best-known cork modellers was the Italian Antonio Chichi, who had a very keen eye for detail. He copied the Temple of Vesta with great care, including the moss on the roof and the ground. The model reproduced the buildings in a state of ruin and covered in undergrowth, emphasising that even the Roman civilization had fallen into decline, despite its greatness.
The Museum Meermanno at one time owned four of these cork models; only this one has withstood the ravages of time. Dating from the last quarter of the 18th century, they were bought at a later date from other Dutch collections by Baron van Westreenen.