Model of the Temple of Vesta at Tivoli


Sir John Soane’s Museum, London.

Institutional Internal Reference Code:



Model of the Temple of Vesta at Tivoli, near Rome, inscribed IOA. ALTIERI / NEAP. F. 177-.

Date of creation:


Extent and basic medium:

1 model.

Name of creator(s):

Giovanni Altieri.

Administrative / contextual / biographical history:

This model, made in Naples towards the end of the 18th century, depicts the ruins of the ancient temple of Vesta at Tivoli, dating from the early first century BC. The temple was set dramatically on the edge of a precipice and was a must-see site for Grand tourists visiting Rome in the 18th century. It was Soane’s favourite Antique building. He was probably introduced to it by his earliest teacher, the architect George Dance the Younger, and sketched and took careful measurements of it as a student in Italy in 1778-79. It remained a powerful source of inspiration throughout his career, its distinctive ‘Order’ appearing in some of his most famous works, for example the Tivoli Corner at the Bank of England (1803-05). Soane even created a ‘Tivoli Recess’ at Lincoln’s Inn Fields in tribute to the temple. In later life his own pupil John Sanders referred to it in a letter as ‘your darling Tivoli’.

Provenance / archival ownership history:

The model was acquired by John Soane at the Govan Sale, Christie’s, 16 February 1804, with another cork model of the Arch of Constantine for £16.

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 for booking details.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Copyright The Trustees of Sir John Soane’s Museum.

Materials, physical characteristics and technical requirements:

Cork with only the base and the floor of the cella in wood. H: 39.5cm, W: 52.3cm, D: 51.5cm.

Finding aids available:

Sir John Soane’s Museum collections online –

Bibliographic note:

Soane, Description (1830), p. 25 pl. 10, 16; Soane, Description (1835), pp. 87.93, pl. 38; P. de la Ruffinière du Prey, John Soane (1982), p. 359 note 9; New Description (1986), 43; V. Kockel, Tempel i Kork (Stockholm 1992), pp. 23-26 fig. 5-; Kockel in Expo. München (1993), p.13 fig. 3; p. 16 figs. 5-6;6; Kockel, Phelloplastica (1998), pp. 31-34 figs. 15-6, 19; John Soane Architect: Master of Space and Light, Royal Academy exhbition catalogue (1999), pp. 102-103, cat 19 (model) and cat. 20 (lecture illustration); also pp. 160-162 cats 68-69 for its display in 1811; M. Richardson, ‘John Soane and the Temple of Vesta in Tivoli’ in Journal of the Architectural Historians 46, 2003, pp. 127-146 in particular 140. For other cork models of the same temple see Rom über die Alpen tragen p. 3303-309; Kockel, Phelloplastica p. 57-68.

Exhibition / display history:

Exhibited in John Soane Architect, Royal Academy, 1999, cat. 19.

Subjects (Getty Art & Arch Thesaurus):

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


Italy: Tivoli; Naples


Altieri, Giovanni (fl. 1767-1790), model-maker.