Escola Superior de Conservació i Restauració de Bés Culturals de Catalunya
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Orchids in the Roman culture and iconography: Evidence for the first representations in antiquity

Contributor(s): Alma, Kumbaric | Giulia, Caneva | Valentina, SavoMaterial type: ArticleArticleDescription: 6 pSubject(s): Orchids | Phytoiconography | Plants and archaeology | Roman iconography In: Biblioteca ESCRBCC 14 nº 4, 311-316Abstract: Orchids have fascinated humans since ancient times. Not only the particular morphology of their flowers and hypogean organs, but also their reproductive biology have inspired myths, legends and popular traditions in many cultures, all around the world. Despite these facts, their representations on ancient artefacts have never been described in the scientific literature. No clear data exist for Eastern culture, and in Western countries, the first certain representations of orchids in art date back to the XV-XVI century CE. This paper documents differnt identifications of orchids on Roman monuments changing the common belief that these plants first appeared in art more recently. Floral elements of Cephalanthera spp., Spiranthes spiralis (L.) Chevall, of Orchis tridentata Scop., and of other orchids were observed in different architectonical elements ( cronices and ceilings ) throught the Roman period, and in the external frieze of the Ara Pacis monument ( I century CE ). These representations seem to refer to a symbolism of fertility and sexuality, and their absence in medieval time can be explained only considering religion influences.
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Article de revista Article de revista Biblioteca de l' Escola Superior Conservació i Restauració de Bens Culturals de Catalunya
Biblioteca ESCRBCC (Browse shelf(Opens below)) Available Art-323

Orchids have fascinated humans since ancient times. Not only the particular morphology of their flowers and hypogean organs, but also their reproductive biology have inspired myths, legends and popular traditions in many cultures, all around the world. Despite these facts, their representations on ancient artefacts have never been described in the scientific literature. No clear data exist for Eastern culture, and in Western countries, the first certain representations of orchids in art date back to the XV-XVI century CE. This paper documents differnt identifications of orchids on Roman monuments changing the common belief that these plants first appeared in art more recently. Floral elements of Cephalanthera spp., Spiranthes spiralis (L.) Chevall, of Orchis tridentata Scop., and of other orchids were observed in different architectonical elements ( cronices and ceilings ) throught the Roman period, and in the external frieze of the Ara Pacis monument ( I century CE ). These representations seem to refer to a symbolism of fertility and sexuality, and their absence in medieval time can be explained only considering religion influences.

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