Model of the Circular Temple at Baalbek, Lebanon

Institution:

Sir John Soane’s Museum, London.

Institutional Internal Reference Code:

SM MR35

Title:

Model of the Circular Temple (Temple of Venus) at Baalbek.

Date of creation:

1800-1830

Extent and basic medium:

1 model.

Name of creator(s):

François Fouquet.

Administrative / contextual / biographical history:

This model is one of a group of 20 plaster reconstructions of antique buildings and monuments showing them in ‘…pristine condition, just as they left the hands of the architect’, as one contemporary described them. In a period when archaeological exploration of the great monuments of antiquity was feeding the passion for neo-classical architecture, models of antique Greek and Roman buildings were used for reference by architects and artists as well as forming an important element in displays of classical art. The didactic display in Soane’s Model Room included these models, interspersed with cork models of ancient buildings in their current ruined state. The ancient Roman city of Baalbek (also known as Heliopolis), in the Bekaa Valley of Lebanon, has several well-preserved temples including this small but complex and distinctive structure, probably built in the early third century AD. Its most unusual feature is the ‘scalloped’ entablature which differs from the type used in more conventional Roman circular temples such as the Temple of Vesta at Tivoli. Four of the Corinthian columns that support this entablature, at the rear of the Temple, are also unusual in having five-sided bases and capitals. Fouquet based this very detailed reconstruction on Plates IV-VI in volume II of the painter and traveller Louis-François Cassas’ Voyage pittoresqque de la Syrie, de la Phoenicie, de la Palestine et de la Basse Aegypte which illustrated the unusual features of the structure. Fouquet has even modelled the minute Ionic capitals of the pilasters that flank the aedicules or niches containing statues that adorn the exterior of the Temple’s circular cella. However, the statues on the model’s entablature and the pinecone finial surmounting the dome seem to be Fouquet’s own inventions. They have no basis in what has been discovered through archaeological investigation of the building and do not appear in Cassas’ reconstruction. The ‘Baroque’ architecture of this temple was highly influential during the 18th century, many architects using its unusual and decorative forms in their work.

Provenance / archival ownership history:

Sir John Soane purchased the twenty models by François Fouquet in 1834 from the architect Edward Cresy (1792-1858) who worked in Paris from 1829 to 1835, for £100. It is likely that Cresy purchased the models directly from Fouquet et Fils.

Immediate source of acquisition:

Bequeathed to the nation as part of Sir John Soane’s Museum, 1837.

Conditions governing access:

In Soane’s Model Room which is accessible daily during Museum opening hours (Weds-Sunday 10-5) on free and paid-for tours only. See http://www.soane.org for booking details.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Copyright The Trustees of Sir John Soane’s Museum.

Materials, physical characteristics and technical requirements:

Plaster of Paris. H: 30cm, W: 26cm, D: 26cm.

Finding aids available:

Sir John Soane’s Museum collections online www.soane.org/collections

Bibliographic note:

Complete Description, Sir John Soane’s Museum, 2018.

Exhibition / display history:

Exhibited as part of a special display of all 20 Fouquet models at Sir John Soane’s Museum in 2011, curated by Dr Jerzy Kierkuc Bielinski.

Subjects (Getty Art & Arch Thesaurus):

Architectural models; architectural education; model-making; the Grand Tour

Locations:

Lebanon: Baalbek; Heliopolis; France: Paris.

Names:

Fouquet, François (1787-1870), model-maker.