Cassiano on the Jewish Races

Freedberg, David A.

Windsor Bassi Rilievi IV is chiefly distinguished by its representations of the theatre, banquets, games, funerals, and shopping of the ancients. The games and gymnastic accessories predominate. A few other such drawings are to be found among those in Bassi Rilievi VIII, as well as in the volume known as the Antichita Diverse.

As one might expect in an assemblage such as Bassi Rilievi IV, there are a number of spectacular drawings of gladiatorial contests, fully in the sixteenth-century antiquarian tradition represented by figures such as Pirro Ligorio, Fulvio Orsini, and Onofrio Panvinio, and sometimes copies from them; but amongst those which have yet to receive the attention they deserve are the many representations of runners, chariot races, boxers, pancratistai, luctatores, bathers, and any number of other ancient sports.

The aim of this paper, however, is neither to judge the archaeological value of these drawings, nor to assess their status as evidence of ancient sporting practices. Instead it is to bring to fore one aspect of Cassiano's interests that has received little attention so far - his interest in modern sports and games. This in turn forms part of a concern with modern life and ethnography that emerges in the correspondence much more frequently than one might perhaps suspect, not only in the many references to popular customs and practices, but in the constance preoccupation with contemporary political in almost every part of Europe.

But this is another story. Here I want, in the first instance, to give some idea of the kings of modern games that seem to have interested Cassiano and his circle, and to suggest (rather than plot) something of their filiation with the antique. In the second place I with to present a description of the Jewish races of Rome that has remained absent form the histories of the Roman carnival and all the many accounts of the history of the Jewish community in Rome

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Cassiano dal Pozzo's Paper Museum

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Academic Units
Art History and Archaeology
Published Here
April 7, 2010