Fresco Of An Ornamental Column

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Fresco Of An Ornamental Column

1st Century B.C. - 1st Century A.D.
Plaster, polychrome
H: 169 cm x W: 47 cm 



This beautiful fresco would have once adorned the walls of a residence or communal building. Ornamental in style, the intricate details are created in vibrant yellow ochre and red polychrome on a stucco ground. The central plain gives the impression of an intricate scrolling column post, possibly wrought in copper as suggested by the verdigris tones used to paint it. Created by the application of water-based pigments on a damp plaster surface, which stabilised when dry. Considered the ‘fourth style’ of fresco painting, or the ‘intricate style’, which was popular around 60- 79 B.C. The decoration found from this time often consists of warm red and ochre pigments, minimalistic architectural elements and larger-scale narrative scenes. A prime example of the Fourth Style is the Ixion Room in the House of the Vettii and the Tablinum of Praedia of Julia Felix in Pompeii. One of the largest contributions seen in the Fourth Style is the advancement of still life with intense space and light. Shading was very important in the Roman still life. This style was never truly seen again until 17th and 18th centuries with the Dutch and English decoration.


The Art Institute of Chicago, ‘Private Taste in Ancient Rome: Selections from Chicago Collections’, 3rd March – 16th September 1990


Accompanying checklist to ‘Private Taste in Ancient Rome’, The Art Institute of Chicago, 1990. Item 25.
David Aaron Ltd, 2021, No. 3.


With Pino Donati, Arte Classica, Lugano, from at least 1969.
Private Collection of Mr and Mrs James Alsdorf, (1914-1990) Illinois, USA, acquired from the above on 10th October 1969 (with a copy of the original invoice).
ALR: S00200428, with IADAA Certificate, this item has been checked against the Interpol database.

Note on the Provenance

James Alsdorf (1914 – 1990) was the son of a Dutch diplomat who moved to Chicago and became an exporter. He studied in the 1930s at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Finance, but left to join his father’s firm. One of his customers, Harvey Cory, owned a line of coffee-making equipment and offered to sell the firm to him on credit. The Cory Co. became a multi-million-dollar enterprise and the largest manufacturer of glass coffee equipment in the country.

His art collecting began in the early 1950s as a form of recreation and out of his love for art. From the beginning, his primary interest was Oriental art, with items dating to 1500 B.C. Together with his wife Marilynn, who shared his passion for art and helped form the collection over their four-decade marriage, they became renowned collectors and philanthropists. James was appointed to the U.S. Information Agency`s Cultural Affairs Committee by President Reagan and was reappointed by President Bush.