Decorated on three sides with ivy vines in low relief, these twin pillars exemplify the lavish use of colored marble and elaborate carving in Roman architecture. Branches of young ivy and clusters of berries issue from the central stalk that rises vertically from an ornate calyx krater at the base. Birds, insects, and reptiles inhabit the trailing lush foliage, all carved in a vivid, naturalistic manner that evokes a garden in springtime. The pillars are made of cipollino verde (also known as marmor carystium), a precious striated greenish marble desired for its polychromy. Exotic colored marbles conveyed elevated status and were reserved for imperial and prestigious public buildings. The high-quality craftsmanship of the relief also suggests an imperial commission. The pillars probably come from emperor Hadrian’s villa at Tivoli, outside Rome, where similar pillars supported garden buildings. Reused at a later period as doorjambs, they were placed upside-down, as the position of the iron hinges presently shows.
Richter, Gisela M. A. 1921. "Greek and Roman Accessions." Bullletin of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 16 (1): p. 14.
Coombs, Margaret E. 1922. "Classical Accessions: V. Roman Marbles." Bullletin of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 17 (2): pp. 34-35.
Angelicoussis, Elizabeth. 2009. "Two Roman pillars from Hadrian's Villa at Tivoli." Metropolitan Museum Journal, 44. pp. 21-27, 32, figs. 2-15.