Marie Louise Élisabeth d’Orléans as Flora (detail)
Nicolas de Largillière
Oil on canvas
I have just returned from a short, relaxing holiday in the medieval town of Labin in the north of Croatia. The largest city in this part of Croatia is called Pula. I went of a day trip to this city, as it is the home to the most amazing pieces of ancient architecture.
The Istrian peninsula was conquered by the Romans in 177 BC and became a significant Roman port. I was fascinated that pieces of art exist from the various stages of Pula’s history, including a magnificent amphitheatre, spectacularly preserved, up until a harrowing Second World War memorial.
In the middle of a car park, about a metre away from a block of apartments, is a beautiful floor mosaic, the only things to remain of what use to be a Roman house built in the 3rd Century. The piece portrays the Legend of Dice from Greek Mythology. It is amazingly preserved but very hard to find.
The Temple of Augustus is a perfect example of the reinvention of Antiquity as it was converted into a church during the Byzantine era, which accounts for it’s survival throughout most of Pula’s history. That was however until it was destroyed by an Allied air raid in 1944 and although it was reconstructed in 1947 it is easy to tell that they didn’t really know where each piece originally went.
Mondrian, Anemones in a vase (private collection)