Medieval Solomonic Column

White carved Cararra marble on metal support plinth

Italian, 14
th Century

The present column, a twisted design carved in one piece of carrara marble, displays polygonal chains integral to the Frenet frame of a helix. Each twist is adorned with a string of carved pearls alternating plain helixed ribbons and
rovere-motive of acorns and oak leaves.

There is considerable weathering to one side - indicating its function as an exterior structural element as a support in a laggia arcade, a decorative column in a church portico, or on a stylobate lion where its purpose would be supporting a capital and the extended portico of a church.

Twisted columns are ubiquitous in religious spaces, where their upward motion acquires symbolic meaning. Characterised by an imaginary 'elastic body', it is historically only to be found in Medieval columns.

Cochlear, spiral, helical, tortile or Solomonic are reported to have been used at the entrance of the Temple of Solomon. Emperor Constantine is reported to have brought to Rome the two columns of the Solomonic Temple, thus initiating a long tradition. The Byzantine columns could also have travelled West via Benedictine monks in whose Medieval cloister today we find more complicated cases of twisted columns.

According to Luca Pacioli in 1509:
Columns in front of the altar of Saint Peter's executed in this twisted 'vine' manner, were taken from the Temple of Salomon in Jerusalem, a temple which had virtuous gifts in warding off evil spirits.

If Pacioli's account is accurate: the helix columns may have symbolised the oak tree which was the first Ark of the Covenant, mentioned in Joshua 24:26. These columns have sections of twist-fluting alternating with wide bands of foliated reliefs.
H 184cm x Dia. 17cm
H 72.47" x Dia. 6.7"
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