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Bust of Juno

roman school

This is a solemn yet imposing representation of Juno, goddess of marriage and childbirth as well as protector of the state, for which reason she is associated with Jupiter and Minerva in the Capitoline Triad. Executed in rosso antico marble, her head is crowned with a diadem; her hair is tied at the back, with two locks falling toward the front. The Oriental alabaster bust reproduces the himation – a mantle wrapped around her left shoulder – a peplos fastened by two fibulae, and the sleeve of a garment beneath, which is closed with three buttons. The work first formed part of the collection of Fulvio Orsini and then of that of the Lante family. It was purchased by Camillo Borghese in 1828 and displayed in Room 4 to ‘complete’ the series of busts in porphyry and alabaster of emperors and consuls, probably in light of its chromatic harmony with these other works. While some critics believe that the head is ancient and the bust modern, others consider it a totally modern work.

Object details

17th century (head), 18th century (bust)
rosso antico marble, oriental alabaster
height 68 cm

Documented in Orsini Collection in 1698 (State Archives of Rome, Lante Archive, b. 663, 1794, in Randolfi 2010, document appendix, p. 291); offered for sale by Giulio Lante in 1828 and purchased by Camillo Borghese (State Archives of Rome, Lante Archive, b. 148, in Randolfi 2010, document appendix, p. 321); Inventario Fidecommissario Borghese, 1833, C, p. 49, no. 112; purchased by Italian state, 1902.

Conservation and Diagnostic
  • 1828 Antonio d’Este


The goddess is depicted frontally, her gaze directed before her. Her facial features are idealised and her pose is solemn and dignified. Beneath the diadem, her hair is parted in the centre of her forehead and then tied together in a bun on her neck; from here, two locks flow down the sides of her neck toward her chest. She wears a himation that covers her left shoulder, under which is visible a peplos clasped on her shoulders by two fibulae; lower down her right shoulder a type of undergarment is visible, whose sleeve is closed by three buttons.

Her face reproduces the features of the so-called Juno Ludovisi, the colossal head found in Rome in the first half of the 16th century, which is believed to be a fragment of a cult statue of the goddess (Faldi 1954, p. 18).

The work was listed in the post mortem inventory of sculptures belonging to Flavio Orsini, Duke of Bracciano, which was compiled by Pietro Papaleo in 1698: ‘A larger-than-life head with a truncated bust depicting Juno wearing a tiara, 2 spans high, in red marble, s. 50’ (in Rubsamen 1980, p. 47). Later we find it mentioned in 1794 in the estimate made of the Lante family’s goods, drafted by Vincenzo Pacetti: ‘A life-sized head in rosso antico and a bust covered in furs’ (State Archives of Rome, Lante Archive, b. 663, 1794, in Randolfi 2010, document appendix, p. 291); and again in 1828 among the family belongings which Giulio Lante auctioned to pay off debts contracted with various creditors: ‘A head in marble representing Juno, which had been held in his palazzo’ (State Archives of Rome, Lante Archive, b. 148, 1794, in Randolfi 2010, document appendix, p. 321). The Borghese bought the bust for 70 scudi, the price determined by Filippo Albacini’s appraisal the year before (State Archives of Rome, Lante Archive, b. 663, 1794, in Randolfi 2009, pp. 559-560); immediately afterwards it was entrusted to Antonio d’Este for restoration (State Archives of Rome, Lante Archive, b. 348, no. 57, in Moreno, Sforzini 1994, p. 360).

The work was most certainly on display in Villa Pinciana in 1832, when Nibby (p. 96) noted it; it had been added to the series of the Twelve Caesars, which included sculptures of Vitellius and Vespasian (two exemplars each), Agrippa, Scipio Africanus and Cicero; these works already formed part of the Borghese Collection. The Juno shares their dimensions and bichrome appearance, in accordance with a plan conceived by Giuseppe Gozzani, administrator of Camillo Borghese’s assets. Gozzani wished to gather the polychrome sculptures that still formed part of the family collection in the same room (Moreno, Sforzini 1987, pp. 370-371).

Nibby believed that the head of our sculpture dated to antiquity and placed on a modern bust (1832, p. 96). Scholars have differed considerably as to the period of the work’s execution: De Rinaldis (1935, p. 13) dated it to the 16th century, Della Pergola (1974, p. 15) to the 17th and Faldi (1954, p. 18) to the late 18th. For her part, Herrmann Fiore (1998, p. 39) supported the last of these proposals. More recently, some scholars have revived Nibby’s theory, proposing that the head is a product of ancient art, which was then given a modern bust by Gaspare Sibilla. This artist is known to have received a commission from Cardinal Federico Marcello Lante in 1763 to restore several sculptures conserved in the courtyard and along the stairway of the family palazzo in Piazza dei Caprettari, where it was in fact noted in 1811 (Randolfi 2010, p. 308).

Sonja Felici

  • A. Nibby, Monumenti scelti della Villa Borghese, Roma 1832, p. 96.
  • Beschreibung der Stadt Rom, a cura di E. Z. Platner, III, 3, Stuttgart-Tübingen 1842, p. 248 s.
  • E. Pistolesi, Descrizione di Roma e suoi contorni, Roma 1852, p. 385.
  • Indicazione delle opere antiche di scultura esistenti nel primo piano del Palazzo della Villa Borghese, Roma 1854 (1873), I, p. 21.
  • A. Venturi, Il Museo e la Galleria Borghese, Roma 1893, p. 34.
  • A. De Rinaldis, La R. Galleria Borghese in Roma, Roma 1935, p. 13.
  • A. De Rinaldis, Catalogo della Galleria Borghese in Roma, Roma 1948, p. 25.
  • P. Della Pergola, La galleria Borghese in Roma, Roma 1951, p. 15.
  • I. Faldi, Galleria Borghese. Le sculture dal sec. XVI al XIX, Roma 1954, pp. 17-18, fig. 12.
  • P. Della Pergola, La Galleria Borghese in Roma, Roma 1974, p. 15.
  • C. Rubsamen, The Orsini Inventories, Malibu 1980, p. 47
  • Le collezioni della Galleria Borghese, a cura di S. Staccioli, P. Moreno, Milano 1981, p. 103.
  • P. Moreno, C. Sforzini, I ministri del principe Camillo: cronaca della Collezione Borghese di antichità dal 1807 al 1832, in “Scienze dell’Antichità, Storia, Archeologia, Antropologia”, I, 1987, pp. 339-371.
  • Galleria Borghese, a cura di A. Coliva, Roma 1994, p. 15.
  • P. Moreno, C. Stefani, Galleria Borghese, Milano 2000, p. 139, fig. 17.
  • R. Randolfi, Albacini, Cades, Ceccarini, D’Este, Landi e Pacetti e la collezione di sculture dei Lante Vaini della Rovere nel palazzo di Piazza dei Caprettari, in E. Debenedetti (a cura di), Sculture romane del Settecento. La professione dello scultore, III, Roma 2003, p. 444.
  • R. Randolfi, Dai Lante ai Borghese: la storia del mezzo busto di Giunone attraverso le perizie di Papaleo, Pacetti, D’Este e il restauro di Sibilla, in “Strenna dei Romanisti”, 70, 2009, pp. 559-566.
  • R. Randolfi, Palazzo Lante in piazza dei Caprettari, Roma 2010.
  • Scheda di catalogo 12/01008653, S. Pellizzari 1983; aggiornamento S. Felici 2020.