Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Sunday, 14 March 2021

Where did you get that lovely coffee table?

The discovery that he elaborate top of a New York coffee table was actually part of the flooring of one of the two luxurious pleasure barges the Emperor Caligula - poor misunderstood boy that he was - had on Lake Nemi in the Alban Hills has made it to some of the news sites this past week.

The mosaic from the bridge of one of Caligula’s pleasure barges and was recovered from Lake Nemi between 1929 and 1932.

Image: La Prenza Latina

There are reports about the identification of the  mosaic and its origin from, amongst others, the Mail Online, which is extensive in its coverage and with a very good selection of photographs at Mosaic from Emperor Caligula's lavish pleasure barge returned to Italyfrom the Daily Telegraph at Emperor Caligula's long-lost mosaic returned to Italy after being used as coffee table in New York and from NBC New York at Roman Emperor's Looted Mosaic Returned Home After Being Used as NYC Coffee Table

As a story it is almost too good to be true, and so to appears to be both the quality and the preservation of the mosaic. It is good to know it is going back to its home. 

The reports show that the barges were lavish and it is a very great tragedy indeed that they and other artifacts from them were destroyed in the burning of the Nemi Museum in 1944. There appears to be debate as to whether the fire was set by the retreating Germans or Italian Partisans. The fact that they had so recently been recovered makes the loss all the more dreadful.

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