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Boy Wearing a Long Mantle

Roman art

In 1796, Ennio Quirino Visconti reported that this statue, along with two very similar to it (inv. LXIX, inv. CVIC) now also in Room 1, were in the garden of the Villa Pinciana. When the collection was reorganised after the sale to Napoleon, the sculptures were moved inside the Galleria Borghese. In 1893, Adolfo Venturi reported that this small statue and another one (inv. LXIX) were in their current location.

The young boy, portrayed standing with his head raised and turned slightly to the right, is wrapped in a large mantle that reveals only his feet and part of his left leg. The shape of his arms can be made out beneath the fabric: his right arm crosses his chest towards his left shoulder and his left arm is bent and held outward, supporting the fabric of the mantle. He wears a dome-shaped hat held close to his head by a band around his forehead. His child-like face wears a cheerful expression, with a partially open, smiling mouth, chubby cheeks and large nose. The careful rendering of the features and use of a drill to define the pupils suggest that the sculpture dates to the middle of the second century CE.

Object details

metà del II secolo d.C.
Luni marble
Height 70 cm

Borghese Collection (cited for the first time in the garden, with other similar statues, by Lamberti, Visconti 1796, pp. 40–41); Inventario Fidecommissario Borghese, 1833, C., p. 47, no. 91. Purchased by the Italian State, 1902.

Conservation and Diagnostic
  • 1827 Antonio d’Este


In this small-scale statue, the young boy is shown in a frontal position, with his head slightly tipped upward and turned to the right. He is wearing a large mantle that conceals his arms, the left of which is bent and held outward, while the right is held across his chest. The long drapery reveals only his bare feet and part of his left leg. He is wearing a close-fitting dome-shaped hat with a band at the bottom that holds his hair. The head, which was inserted, is original. The style of the hat marks it as a pileus, a type of cap that was very popular in the Roman world and held multiple meanings. The pileus was a ‘close-fitting felt cap shaped like half an egg’ (Georges, Calonghi 1939, ‘pileus’), worn by ‘popes, flamens and Salii and given to slaves to mark their liberation’ (Ernout, Meillet 1959, ‘pilleus’). Indeed, Livy uses the phrase servi ad pileum vocati to indicate the liberation of slaves (Livy, Historiae 24.32.9) and Dionysius of Halicarnassus notes that the Greek term πῖλος/pílos corresponded to the flamens’ apex, a little twig at the top of their white cap (Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Antiquitates Romanae 2.64). The physiognomy and clothing of the Borghese sculpture recall the iconography of Telesphoros, son or helper of Asclepius, which we also find in another statue in the museum (Room 6, inv. CIC). Waldemar Deonna, who published an in-depth study on this figure, notes that ‘he was the height and age of a … boy, with a pleasant, cheerful appearance. He wears a mantle with a hood, often with no pleats or if any just a few, that covers his entire body, with the rare exception of his arms, and comes down to his feet, which are bare’ (Deonna 1955, pp. 44–46). The figure of Telesphoros, the name of whom means ‘bringer of completion’ (Rühfel 1994, p. 870), has a double meaning: salutary in reference to healing; inauspicious when linked to death. The young god is often associated with the figure of the genius cucullatus, a chthonic entity with a very similar appearance and bearer of fertility and prosperity.

The Borghese statuette is displayed in Room 1 with two others, in the corners, which are very similar, differing in only small details (inv. CVIC, inv. LXIX). In 1796, Ennio Quirino Visconti reported in what is now Room 5 a statuette of Telesphoros wearing a pileus and wrapped in a mantle, adding that ‘there are many similar statuettes scattered throughout the woods of the Villa Pinciana’ (Visconti, Lamberti 1796, pp. 40–41). The statue noted by Visconti ended up in the Louvre, while the ones that were in the garden are the sculptures now in Room 1. When the collection was reorganised in the residence between 1819 and 1832, after the massive sale of works in the antiquities collection by Camillo Borghese to his brother-in-law Napoleon, the sculptures were initially used to decorate the columns of the Portico and then displayed on cipollino marble stands in Room 3 (Moreno, Viacava 2003, p. 145, no. 110). In 1893, Adolfo Venturi reported that the Borghese sculpture was located, along with another one like it (inv. LXIX), in its current location in Room 1 (Venturi 1893, p. 20).

The three mantled statuettes in the Galleria Borghese are linked to a very popular iconographic type reproduced over the centuries and considered to have an apotropaic function. The practice of displaying sculptures in private gardens, as a sign of auspiciousness and benevolence, is also found in the early modern period. The use of a drill to define the features and pupils suggests that the present sculpture dates to the middle of the second century CE.

Giulia Ciccarello

  • L. Lamberti, E.Q. Visconti, <em>Sculture del palazzo della Villa Borghese detta Pinciana</em>, Roma 1796, pp. 40-41
  • A. Venturi, Il Museo e la Galleria Borghese, Roma 1893, p.20
  • G. Giusti, La Galerie Borghèse et la Ville Humbert Premier à Rome, Roma 1904, p.20
  • W. Helbig, Führer durch die öffentlichen Sammlungen klassischer Altertümer in Rom, (3°Edizione), a cura di W. Amelung, II, Leipzig 1913, p.236
  • G. Lippold, Photographische Einzelaufnahmen antiker Sculpturen, X, 1, München 1925, p.6, n.2723
  • A. De Rinaldis, La R. Galleria Borghese in Roma, Roma 1935, p.9
  • K. E. Georges, F. Calonghi, s.v. pileus, Dizionario della lingua latina, I, Dizionario latino-italiano, 2a ed., Torino 1939
  • P. Della Pergola, La Galleria Borghese in Roma, (3° Edizione) Roma 1954, p.11
  • W. Deonna, Télesphore et le “genius cucullatus” celtique, in “Latomus”, XIV, 1955, pp.43-74
  • R. Calza, Catalogo del Gabinetto fotografico Nazionale, Galleria Borghese, Collezione
  • degli oggetti antichi, Roma 1957, p.11, n.88 (con n. di inventario errato: CXV)
  • A. Ernout, A. Meillet, s.v. pilleus, in Dictionnaire de la langue latine. Histoire des Mots, 4 ed., Paris 1959
  • W. Helbig, H. Speier, Führer durch die öffentlichen Sammlungen klassischer Altertümer in Rom, (4°Edizione), a cura di H. Speier, II, Tübingen 1966, p.715, n.1954 (Von Steuben)
  • P. Moreno, Museo e Galleria Borghese, La collezione archeologica, Roma 1980, p.11
  • P. Moreno, S. Staccioli, Le collezioni della Galleria Borghese, Milano 1981, p.101, fig. a p.88
  • P. Moreno, C. Sforzini, I ministri del principe Camillo: cronaca della collezione Borghese di antichità dal 1807 al 1832, in “Scienze dell’Antichità”, 1, 1987, pp. 355
  • M. Fuchs, Glyptothek München, Katalog der Skulpturen, VI, Römische Idealplastik,
  • München 1992, p.175, nota 11, nn.12-14
  • H. Rühfel, s.v. Telesphoros, in “Lexicon Iconographicum Mythologiae Classicae” VII, 1994, pp. 870-878
  • P. Moreno, L’antico nella stanza, in Venere Vincitrice, La sala di Paolina Bonaparte alla Galleria Borghese, a cura di C. Strinati, Roma 1997, pp.73-117, in particolare p.89
  • W. Deonna, Dei, geni e demoni incappucciati. Da Telesforo al «Moine Bourru», Milano 2019, pp.43-74
  • A. Calvetti, Geni pileati e Cucullati, in “Lares”, 66, N. 4, 2000, pp. 709-724
  • P. Moreno, C. Stefani, Galleria Borghese, Milano 2000, p.68, n.6
  • P. Moreno, A. Viacava, I marmi antichi della Galleria Borghese. La collezione archeologica di Camillo e Francesco Borghese, Roma 2003, p.152, n. 119
  • D. Bonanome, Telesforo e le Divinità Salutari a Grottaferrata. Indagine sul piccolo dio “Cucullatus”, in “Humanitas Studi Per Patrizia Sefarin”, Roma 2015, pp 23-70
  • Scheda di catalogo 12/99000041, G. Ciccarello 2020