PLACENTARIUS TRAY, Anonimo Pompeiano for Officia Alessi

The project for this rectangular tray is derived from a small bronze known as the Placentarius, which was found in 1925 by Amedeo Maiuri in the Casa dell'Efebo in Pompei and which is now housed in the Archaeological Museum of Naples. The small bronze statue represents a distinctly ithyphallic old nude man who, on the palm of his hand, holds a little silver tray measuring 14.3 by 8.8 cm. It was found in four mirror-image pairs: it was most likely a decorative set for Roman tables, designed to hold appetisers. With the collaboration of Almerico De Angelis and Umberto Pappalardo of the University of Naples, we reconstructed the original tray that the creator of the statues had evidently taken as reference for his miniaturisation. Considering the golden section (1:0,618) between the two sides of the rectangle, we presume that it must have been about 60 cm (two Roman feet) long and about 36 cm wide: just about the size of a pizza-maker's baking tin (placenta was a rustic flat bread mentioned by Cato, and placountarioi were an association of pastry-makers referred to by Arsinoe of Egypt in A.D. 2. In the original, the ornamental relief of elegant floral volutes was presumably obtained by hammered embossing and finished with burin engraving, the same techniques that are still used in silversmithing today. Our challenge was to bring the project up to date with the latest technology, making it in a metal more characteristic of our age: stainless steel, and with industrial manufacturing techniques: metal forming and blanking.
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