Pereat, 1895
Andreoni Orazio (active 19th Century)
Image © Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum


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Pereat is an example of strong women – a theme appearing throughout the Russell-Cotes. The sculpture depicts two female spectators, in classical clothes, at a gladiatorial arena. ‘Pereat’ is from the Latin phrase ‘fiat iustitia et pereat mundus’ meaning ‘let justice be done, even if the world should perish’. This was shouted by spectators in the Roman amphitheatre.

Gladiators were professional fighters who entertained crowds in Roman arenas fighting each other or wild animals, sometimes to the death. The gladiators were often condemned criminals, prisoners-of-war or enslaved people.

This statue’s original pedestal was lost but has been copied from the original marble and bronze group at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum, USA. It shows a gladiatorial helmet, short sword and relief panel with a view of the arena and audience – including the two females. This plaster version was made by Andreoni’s studio in Rome. For dramatic effect, Merton placed Pereat on the Upper Balcony with the visitor below in the intimidating position of a defeated gladiator.

Andreoni was a prolific sculptor of figures and busts. He was based in Rome, but sent works for exhibition as far as Glasgow, Paris, Berlin and he was active for a time in America, establishing his international reputation. Andreoni specialised in historical and biblical subjects. His expertise is evident here in the virtuoso handling of clothing delighting in the richness of detail. Perhaps Andreoni’s greatest contribution was his large workshop in Rome where a generation of sculptors received their training.


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