Candelabrum of penthelic marble (H. 2.70), found in the sanctuary of the Syrian
gods in 1803. At first at Rome in the house of a sculptor behind the Capitol, afterwards
in Palazzo Giustiniani, further in the Coll. of Cardinal Fesch and from 1816
in Paris, Louvre, Inv. No. 2754.
Bouillon, Mus. Ant., III, Candélabres, Pl. 3 No. 1; Clarac, Mus. Sculpt., II, 946
and Pl. 257 No. 640; Pl. LXI No. 553 E; Froehner, Not. Sculpt., 387 No. 424;
MMM II 225 No. 59 and fig. 55; Gauckler, Sanct. Syr., 159ff; Vermaseren,
Mithrasdienst Rome, 85f.
The candelabrum has three legs, decorated with acanthus. On the three sides of
the triangular base, the following representations:
1) Dressed bust of Sol with a crown of seven rays round his curly head.
2) Dressed bust of Luna with crescent on her head.
3) Bull, walking to the right.
In the top corners of this base griffon-heads. The shaft is richly decorated with
Restorations: two griffon-heads and the upper part of the shaft.
Below Sol on the rim an inscription:
CIL VI 837; MMM II No. 38.
It is quite possible, that Doryphorus in the Syrian sanctuary dedicated this monument
to Mithras. His name is also known from Ostia.
Roman Art from the Louvre
This was the catalogue for a travelling exhibition.
85 Candelabrum (base)
Early 2nd or 4th century A.D. (?) • Base discovered in Rome in the Syrian sanctuary on the Janiculum Hill, 1803 • Marble •
H. 90.5 in. (230 cm) • Purchased 1816, formerly in the Fesch collection (MA 2754-INV. u. 34; n 1357) • Restorer: A. Liegey, 2005
This candelabrum is composed of five marble elements, each mounted on the other. On a triangular base stand three animal paws, joined together by a plinth. Above that is a triangular base with griffon heads decorating its upper corners. Its three faces depict the god Sol, his bust draped and his hair crowned with seven sunbeams; the goddess Luna, her head crowned with a crescent and her tunic crossed with a baldric; and a bull galloping toward the right above a ground line. A latin inscription, Doryphorus Pater, is carved on the rim beneath the bust of Sol.
The base's upper surface supports a bouquet of acanthus leaves, which spread out to form the convex base of a long shaft, composed of elements decorated with alternating ranges of acanthus, laurel, and few flowers visible in the upper half. This foliate ornamentation is in fairly low relief except at the top—where they spread out to support a dish-shaped form composed of leaves with a beaded border, from which a low flame rises.
The base of this candelabrum was discovered by the Italian archeologist Carlo Fea in 1803 while he was excavating a Roman sanctuary on the southern slope of Janiculum Hill. He entrusted a sculptor with its restoration. Indeed, in its present form, this candelabrum was made by assembling ancient fragments from a number of distinct objects (as evidenced by the variations in veining and tonality among the cream-colored marbles) and the addition of those modern components.
The shrine on Janiculum Hill was consecrated to Syrian divinities from the end of the first century B.C. until the end of the fourth century A.D The provenance of this triangular base, whose shape and ornamentation recall the three principal gods worshipped in Heliopolis, was confirmed in 1909 by the discovery of its original pediment, which is still in place at the center of the temple's main chamber on the far west side of the sanctuary. The sanctuary was restored by a wealthy Syrian merchant who was a contemporary of Marcus Aurelius and Commodus; this restoration reused a number of elements from earlier buildings. The ornamentation of the base, as well as the appearance of the divinities that decorate two of its faces, suggests a date in the first half of the second century A.D.
8ut this dating could be altered by the inscription on the principal face (assuming it does not simply indicate the sacerdotal function of the votary), depending on whether it could be considered contemporary with—or later than the bas-relief. The prominence given to the sun divinity Bel-laribolos, the god carrying the spear, may also indicate changes in the hierarchy of Syrian divinities under the Palmyran influence, which promoted the spread of Chaldean sects during the fourth century A.D
Dating the other antique fragments is even more problematic without any archeological context. Nevertheless, this candelabrum, reconstructed at the beginning of the nineteenth century, is quite typical of the objects discovered in a number of fairly significant buildings, both civic and religious, public and private. The translation of the metal forms originally used in lighting fixtures into marble shows that such objects could have both decorative and votive functions, depending on the user's requirements. (C.P.-D.)