The Temple of Vesta in Tivoli is one of the most illustrated and visited of the ruins of antiquity. It featured heavily in paintings and engravings as well as being the subject of model making. One important example, is a cork model a recent addition to the models collection at Cooper Hewitt, made in either Rome or Naples, but probably for a foreign collector probably on the Grand Tour. The fashion for cork models started with the revival of interest in the classical period and the Grand Tour in the mid -eighteenth century and reached it zenith around 1800-1830. Meticulous workmanship and an exacting sense of proportion produced a model that was faithful to the full scale building. To make the models, curved cork boards from Southern European cork trees were flattened in presses for an extended period, before being shaped and sculpted with sharp tools. The porous nature of cork was ideal for creating the impression of the worn marble of the original buildings, the softness of thematerial enhancing carving in minute detail as seen in this model of the temple in a semi-ruinous state. Scale and detail together were important, especially for students of the architecture and design details. The cork’s lightness made the models more transportable.
These models were both used to “collect” important architecture, and as teaching tools. Architect Sir John Soane had a models room, from which he taught. Soane also used models as inspiration for his own architecture. In his model room were several cork models including one of this building-Soane’s favourite-the Temple of Vesta at Tivoli, in addition to a large cork model of Pompeii and others of temples at Paestum. His Model Room incorporated buildings Soane admired and that influenced him and served to replace the Grand Tour for those students unable to travel to Italy and Greece to see the actual buildings for themselves. He looked on them as good substitutes for going on the Grand Tour from the point of view of teaching architecture.