The Vestal Tuccia Carrying Water in a Sieve
(Gebbie and Barrie Co., American, ca. 1870–1890)
from The Masterpieces of the Centennial International Exhibition, Philadelphia, 1878.
This print after a painting by Hector Leroux (French, 1829-1900).
Rome’s Vestal Virgins were among the ancient world’s most esteemed religious figures, even holding the right to pardon criminals. They promised thirty years service to their patroness, Vesta, the goddess who protected the sanctity of home and became synonymous with the hearth. A Vestal’s service was contingent upon a strict vow of chastity, and the penalty for breaking the vow was live burial.
Tuccia was a Vestal Virgin whose chastity was questioned by a spurious accusation. Tuccia beseeched the goddess for help:
<i>“Holy Vesta, if I have always brought pure hands to your secret services, make it so now that with this sieve I shall be able to draw water from the Tiber and bring it to your temple.” </i>
(Valerius Maximus, Nine Books of Memorable Deeds and Sayings, 8.1.5)
According to the ancient sources, Vesta answered Tuccia’s plea, and the priestess miraculously carried water in a sieve and thus absolved herself of suspicion.
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"I still remember the feeling of awe and disbelief when I was alone and walked in the room with those casts." --Ruth Tofle, chair of architecture, winner of the 2013 distinguished faculty award from the MU Alumni Association