The discovery of the Ara Pacis Augustae in Rome
In 1568, nine large marble blocks carved on both sides were found under the Peretti Palace in Rome. Assuming their belonging to a Domitian arch, the blocks were purchased on behalf of the Grand Duke of Tuscany and for the most part transferred to Florence, after being sawn in the sense of thickness to facilitate transportation and display.
Not all of the fragments followed such linear and documented routes, however:
- one large figured fragment ended up in the Louvre, where it still stands today;
- a second fragment is now in the Vatican Museums;
- almost all of the fragments decorated with festoons were walled up in the facade of the Villa Medici at the Pincio, where they are still today.
The following year it was discovered that a festooned tomb slab, placed on the floor of the Roman Jesus church and badly chiseled because it was too protruding, formed the other side of the slab present at the Vatican Museums.
Meanwhile, in 1879 Friedrich von Duhn was able to refer the set of findings precisely to the Ara Pacis Augustae.
Unfortunately, the presence of water and dangers to the stability of the palace paused the work until February 1937, when the Council of Ministers decreed their resumption in view of the bimillenary of the birth of Augustus.
Soon excavation began, and on April 30, 1937, the relief with the procession of the Flamines came back to light. However, the difficulties to overcome remained great, as the Altar lay more than seven meters below the road level and a natural water source at a depth of five meters, prevented recovery by drawing water from the surrounding areas.
The reassembly was entrusted to Giuseppe Moretti and took place, thanks also to the consistent collaboration of Guglielmo Gatti, in the laboratories of the Museo Nazionale Romano: the Florentine slabs were recovered and reassembled, while casts were made of those in the Louvre, the Villa Medici and the Vatican Museums (the latter were later donated by Pius XII and relocated in the Altar).