This collection of bronzes is the finest of its kind in existence. In the center and resting on a long table are three money chests, two of which were found in the House of the Vettii. They are made of bronze and strongly bound in iron, and are as heavy and se-cure as any ” strong box ” need be. As you see, they rest upon four legs and are decorated with bronze figures in relief, which are executed in an artistic manner. When you think that they were all made by hand and of such heavy and unwieldy material, they reveal a workmanship of the highest merit. The money had all been removed by their owners, and nothing of value was found when the chests were opened.
Let me call your attention to that very curious arrangement for heating water which you see on the table nearest us. It is of bronze and rests upon four legs, the feet of which represent lions’ paws. The cylinder with the movable cover holds the water, which is heated from below, an arrangement not unlike our modern tea urns. Beside it is a beautiful double-handled water-pot of bronze inlaid with silver and having a hole for the spout. Another is seen on the stand beyond. That farther one is from Herculaneum, and has, on one handle, the name of the owner, ” Cornelia Chelidon of Herculaneum.”
The three-legged bronze stands, called tripods, which are in the glass cases, are without doubt the finest work in bronze of which we have any knowledge. The circular band is adorned with bas-reliefs which are simply exquisite in their beauty and in the delicacy of their execution, and every part of this truly fine work of art is finished in the same faultless manner. The bronze urns which fill the glass cases lining the walls of the room contained oil, olives, dates, figs and eggs.
In this room also are writing materials – ink vases with remains of ink and the tabulae (writing tablets) covered with wax. Here are bronze bells for cattle, steel mirrors, fish-hooks and a curious musical instrument like a bagpipe, with seven ivory tubes covered with bronze, and found in the barracks at Pompeii ; and in this place were found, as well, iron stocks from the prison-cells where the three skeletons were discovered ; and bridles, stirrups, harness and a set of loaded dice, by means of which a soldier must have enjoyed many an idle hour in playing with his fellows a game of chance.
Near the door to our left are seen oil lamps set on lamp-stands, the oil left in some of them having hardened like enamel.
If we had no other proof of the high degree of artistic excellence attained by the Pompeians except this famous collection of bronzes, we would have sufficient to place them in the front rank among the cultured peoples of ancient times. It is to be regretted that their marvelous skill in working and adorning metals has, like their own ancient life, perished forever from the earth.
In another room is an interesting collection of steel-yards and scales.