Pochmarski, Erwin (unter Mitarbeit von M. Pochmarski-Nagele und B. Porod): Die Porträtmedaillons und Porträtnischen des Stadtgebietes von Flavia Solva, CSIR Österreich IV 2, 127 Seiten, 125 Abbildungen auf 53 Tafeln, ISBN 978-3-7001-6954-3, € 63
(Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, Wien 2011)
Compte rendu par Iphigeneia Leventi, University of Thessaly

Nombre de mots : 1540 mots
Publié en ligne le 2012-10-19
Citation: Histara les comptes rendus (ISSN 2100-0700).
Lien: http://histara.sorbonne.fr/cr.php?cr=1614
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          This volume follows the general format for the presentation of sculptural material prescribed for monographs or for rather extensive catalogues in the series Corpus Signorum Imperii Romani (CSIR). The authors present here the free-standing grave marble medallions and niches (this is the term they use for the wide orthogonal grave reliefs) with portrait busts of the Roman Imperial period from the city and the territorium of Flavia Solva. This was a Roman municipium on the banks of the Mur river in the Southeast part of the Roman province of Noricum and in the area of Styria (Steiermark) in present-day Austria, situated between the modern cities of Wagna and Lancha in the Leibnitz district. The material is kept in various locations in the region, as well as in the Lapidarium of the Universalmuseum Joanneum in Graz.


          The present volume follows the one written by E. Hudeczek, CSIR Ősterreich IV.1. Die Rundskulpturen des Stadtgebietes von Flavia Solva, Wien 2008. Two other volumes (CSIR Ősterreich IV.3 and IV.4) will treat the grave stelae, altars and votive reliefs, and the reliefs incorporated in funerary buildings found in Flavia Solva, respectively.


          The present study starts with an introduction (pp. 1-28) that discusses fully and meticulously all problems posed by these relief monuments. Then comes a bibliography (pp. 29-39) followed by the main part of the study, the detailed catalogue (pp. 41-119), which comprises in the first part the portrait medallions (nos. 1-22), while a second part deals with the so-called portrait niches (nos. 23 -101). The study is supplemented by registers (a general register, a register of inscriptions, a provenance register and a register of the Museums or other places where the discussed monuments are housed today, pp. 121-123). The text is accompanied by 53 plates, which are, however, of a poor quality, so that details of the garments, coiffures or attributes described in the catalogue entries are not always easily discernable for the reader from the photos.


          The first part of the introduction (pp. 7-10) investigates the provenance and the later history of these relief monuments, the majority of which were incorporated as building material in the so-called Bergfried or Alter Turm of the Seggau Castle on the Seggauberg  mountain. After the demolition of this tower in 1815/1816 and 1926-1831, the reliefs were saved and either incorporated into the façade of a new wall that was built for the occasion in front of another building belonging to the fortified episcopal structures of the Castle (the “Römersteinwand”) and into an adjacent corridor as well, or transported to the Landesmuseum Joanneum (today Universalmuseum Joanneum) in Graz. The portrait medallions, which are fewer in number that the portrait niches, but more elaborate and expensive grave markers, were used in the city of Flavia Solva, and possibly were attached originally to grave monuments in one of the cemeteries along a street of the Roman city. By contrast, the more numerous portrait niches may derive from the ancient funerary areas situated around Roman villae rusticae in the territorium of Flavia Solva. The detailed discussion of the modern history of the monuments, which were later incorporated in tertiary use, or stored in several structures in various different places in the region (pp. 9-10), would demand the presence of a map of the modern areas locating the monuments referred to here, or even a plan of the Seggau Castle itself, which would elucidate the issue for the international reader, who is likely not familiar with the geographical and monumental landscape of the area of Flavia Solva. Especially, though references to the Seggau Castle on the Seggauberg are comprised in the predominantly German bibliography, the following of the lengthy description of find places and their history should be facilitated for the academic or general public at first glance, before having to consult further reading.


          The investigation of the local marbles from which the marble medallions and niches were carved is treated in the next section (pp. 10-13). The sample of monuments submitted to scientific analysis is too small to check the accuracy of macroscopic examination, consequently the results  are sometimes controversial. After a brief reference concerning terminology, the remainder of the introduction (pp. 13-14) discusses the types of portrait busts portrayed and their iconographic patterns. In most cases two portrait busts are represented, a married couple; a child, boy or girl, is occasionally displayed in the portrait niches between the parents or in the middle in front of them, while less often two children are portrayed. An elder son or daughter can be depicted in the middle or on one side of the parents. In the portrait niches appear sometimes two couples, whereas in the portrait medallions we may see a mother or a father with a son. When only a man is portrayed, it is usually a youth, or less often we have two young men together.


          The next section is devoted to the iconography of these relief monuments (pp. 14-22) that may also offer clues for their dating. First are investigated the coiffures, garments, jewels and attributes of women, then those of men and the iconography of children, which follows that of their parents, and finally the gestures among the figures depicted. Women have either uncovered hair or most often wear the “norische Haube”, a special hair cover, peculiar to the women of Noricum. They usually wear three local garments with necklaces and brooches on the breast, but also decorated fibulae of various types in order to fasten their drapery on the shoulders. Men have uncovered heads, and when they are older, they sport a beard. Their hair arrangement is curly in the Antonine period or roughly picked in the Severan period. They wear Roman attire, namely the tunica or tunica manicata and the toga in opposition to the female portraits. A separate overgarment is the sagum, which originates from military apparel. Both the sagum and an early form of the toga contabulata appear contemporaneously in Noricum in the middle Severan period, the time of Caracalla (A.D. 211-217). The authors discuss the previous scholarship and express their own view with regard to the introduction of these special garments in Noricum. Occasionally the pallium or the paenula  also appear. Decorated fibulae are also used for fastening the male garments on the shoulder, and special attributes occur in the male portraits, such as the book roll that characterizes the deceased as a cultivated person, a polyptychon, that signifies a public writer, and also rings with stamps. Dextrarum junctio underlines the marital love or association of the married couple portrayed, while women usually embrace their husbands or set one hand on their shoulder. Parents also embrace their children on some funerary reliefs. Finally, technical traits, such as incision in the eyes, which occurs from the Hadrianic period onward, are discussed as dating criteria, especially in the male portraits. This is an elucidating section that enriches the discussion with examples handled in the following catalogue, and offers interpretations and opinions of the authors.


          The introduction concludes with a section arranged in two parts (pp. 22-28), that first speculates on the origin of these two types of monuments, the portrait medallions and portrait niches,  then, on the way they were erected in association with the grave monuments. The bases on which the medallions were originally set may have been of different types and one cannot exclude that the sculpted medallions may also have topped funerary altars. The authors finally suggest that the free portrait medallions were developed from finials of funerary stelae that appeared in North Italy; precisely, the first free relief medallions appeared in Altinum in the first century A.D. However, portrait niches were often built into funerary monuments, albeit somewhat different from those of the metropolitan Rome, and mostly in the form of aediculae. Funerary niches that possess a crowning pediment with figural decoration in the form of sea creatures, or are furnished with a tenon on their bottom, or  display a funerary inscription, may have been inserted in free standing bases like the orthogonal stelae. According to the authors, the grave niche form may have originated in Rome and arrived in Noricum by way of North Italy.


          The catalogue entries are detailed, with bibliography, description of the reliefs and suggested dates in accordance with iconographic traits, such as coiffures and garments. Portrait medallions appear in Flavia Solva from the late Antonine (A.D. 180-192) to the Constantine periods (A.D. 306-320), whereas portrait niches are dated from the Trajanic-Hadrianic to the Tetrarchic and Constantine periods (A.D. 284-305, 306-320). Examples that are difficult or impossible to date are listed at the end of this second catalogue. Each catalogue entry also has a reference to the ubi-erat-lupa digital data bank for Roman Stone Monuments (http:/www.ubi-erat-lupa.org).


          This study throughout meets the standards of the CSIR series and gives a full presentation of both these types of grave reliefs that are characteristic of the city and territorium of the Roman city Flavia Solva. It is surely of prime interest to the academic reader who specializes in Roman provincial sculpture. The only drawback is the quality of the photographic material, that could have been much better. In its present form, it detracts from the full appreciation of these interesting marble monuments.