Saturday, June 21, 2014

Pompeii No.17: The Left Trophy

This week and next, we'll be looking at the mural's narrow "Trophy Walls." Both of my trophies will be on stands, as though all the paraphernalia is ready to be donned at a moment's notice.

Mark D. Ruffner  |  Metropolitan Museum of Art
I've chosen to use this helmet from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It dates from 1788-90, and was part of a costume used in the French theater. Though it is of a later period, I'm of course using the helmet because of its spectacular Neoclassic design.

The armor is a composite of historic examples that I've found in reference books, and on the Internet. Yes, there really was armor with such a scallop shell design.

Moving down, the shield is modeled after an actual design used by one of the Roman legions, below, though it would have been a bright red. Note the Macedonian stars, about which I spoke here.   |

The round shield was called a parma, and it would have offered less protection than the body-length shield on the right, which was called a scutum. The soldier holding the scutum would have been in a tight formation in front of the soldier holding the parma.

U. S. Military Shoulder Patches of the United States Armed Forces, 5th Edition
Above are several insignia of the United States Army, and one can see here the influence of Roman design into our contemporary time. From left to right: the 17th Field Artillery Brigade, the 18th Field Artillery Brigade, the 30th Field Artillery Regiment, and the 197th Field Artillery Brigade.

The base of the stand continues the Imperial Roman theme with a golden eagle, in turn supported by lion claws.

Below is the finished Left Trophy Wall.

click to enlarge
Next week we'll look at the right wall, which has the same format, but completely different details.


  1. Hello Mark,

    Gosh, this gets more and more ambitious in its complexity and details. You really will be able to give guided tours of this room to visitors when complete. The historical referencing and the intriguing combinations of idea, periods and designs are simply fascinating.

    We were immediately struck by the scallop shell motif on the body armour. This echoes the design to be found elsewhere and really does tie the decorative elements together. Although it is more interesting to have varied designs on the walls rather than a simple repetition, it does contribute yo an overall harmony to at least have some details which mirror or pay some regard to others. You have achieved this most effectively.

    1. Hello, Jane and Lance,

      The Pompeii Room is going to become increasingly more complex, and it will have several themes, the trophies being but the first.

      I've been looking not only at the designs of original Pompeian murals, but also the later revivals of Pompeian design, many of which are found in a very handsome book published by Verbavolant, "Antiques in Italian Interiors." Part of the combination of which you speak is certainly going to be in the colors, which will need to harmonize as things get more complex. I guess you could call that a theme, too.

  2. Hello Mark, You have matched details and symbolism wonderfully in this trophy. Neoclassical works can be appealing because of the way in which they distill the original mindset in ways that match our own sensibilities--one thinks of the delicacy of Adam architectural details, or the showy magnificence of parade armor as you have recreated for us.

    I was curious about that helmet, so I looked it up. It turns out to be French, c. 1788:

    Apparently, this was created for theatrical use!

    1. Hello, Jim,

      Thank you for tracking down the origin of the helmet! I had looked through the collections, too, but had missed the information because I was looking for a helmet, and not the entire costume. (When I toured the Met, the helmet was displayed by itself.) Anyway, thanks for your eagle eye, and I have made proper changes to the text.

      You touch on an interesting point, and one to which I have given considerable thought, namely the decorative representation of things militaristic. I could easily have made the trophy walls into symbols of agriculture or the arts, but I chose instead to follow what was more typical of the Empire and Regency styles, which of course were at their height during the Napoleonic Wars. Thank you for recognizing that this is following a decorative style and an antique mindset!

  3. This will indeed be your 'magnum opus', Mark. :) Jane and Lance have it: guided tours. Yes. :) At the very least, a cocktail party to debut the room when you've finished. The armor design reminds me strongly of the costume worn by Stephen Boyd in BEN HUR. Isn't it interesting that our modern day U.S. army reaches back into European design history for its symbols.

    1. Hi, Yvette,

      Your comment induced me to look up Stephen Boyd in Google Images to see what he was wearing in BEN HUR. Though there does appeaar to be a shell on his armor, you will find that it is more closely represented in the second trophy wall.

      I like your idea of a cocktail party — so much better than togas and grapes!

  4. Dear Mark, I'm speechless. Everything has already been said and said so eloquently.
    And why not "open" your Pompeian Room to the public? Carlo Marchiori has been giving tours of his Toga in Calistoga for years.

    1. Dear Gina,

      Thank you for that very generous comparison! Of course Carlo Marchiori has turned every single room of his house into a piece of art, so I have a way to go yet!

  5. I want to come to the cocktail party! This is becoming an icon!

  6. The detail you've added to these are amazing, Mark. Love the faux bois, too!

    1. Hi, Steve,

      I'll talk a little about the faux bois in the next posting — it might make you smile . . .