Caligula’s Coffee Table 

Monday, November 29th, 2021

For almost 50 years, an ancient Roman mosaic was used as a coffee table. Dario Del Bufalo, an Italian expert on ancient stone and marble, describes how he learned of this while signing copies of his book:

“There was a lady with a young guy with a strange hat that came to the table,” Del Bufalo told CBS. “And he told her, ‘What a beautiful book. Oh, Helen, look, that’s your mosaic.’ And she said, ‘Yeah, that’s my mosaic.’”

Del Bufalo tracked down the young man, who confirmed that “Helen” had the mosaic in her apartment in Manhattan.

She was Helen Fioratti, an art dealer and gallery owner. According to an interview she gave the New York Times in 2017, she and her husband, an Italian journalist, bought the mosaic from an Italian noble family in the 1960s. When it arrived in New York, the couple turned it into a coffee table.

The table was eventually seized and returned to Italy, as it appeared to have originally been stolen during the second world war, before eventually finding its way to Fioratti. She might have gotten away with it (for longer than 45 years), if it weren’t for that strange hat!


If you enjoyed this post, get updates via Twitter, Facebook, or RSS.