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Female Head Restored as Ceres, on a Modern Bust

Roman art


The head inserted onto a modern bust represents a young woman with an oval face, almond-shaped eyes, pelta-shaped irises and small full lips. The thick classical style hair presents heavy lateral locks divided by a central parting, covering the small ears, and tied into a bun at the nape. A large crown of wheat spikes, added during the nineteenth century restoration of this piece, identifies the figure, perhaps originally a Muse, as Ceres. Despite the ponderous reworking, some stylistic elements in the treatment of the hair and the irises suggest the Borghese head may date to the second century.


Object details

Inventory
CCXII
Location
Date
II sec. d.C.
Classification
Medium
white marble
Dimensions
altezza fino alla frattura del collo cm 30
Provenance

Borghese Collection, cited in the Inventario Fidecommissario Borghese, 1833, C, p. 50, n. 132 (Room V). Purchased by the Italian State, 1902.

Conservation and Diagnostic
  • 1996-97, Liana Persichelli

Commentary

The female head, of unknown provenance, has been inserted with a large part of its original neck onto a modern bust. The modern restoration has greatly modified the original iconography of what probably was a representation of a Muse, transformed into Ceres with the addition of a rich crown of wheat spikes – a detail that validates its identification in the Inventario fidecommissario 1833 as ‘Genius of Abundance’.

The head represents a young woman with an oval face, almond-shaped eyes, pelta-shaped irises, and small full lips. The thick classical style hair presents heavy lateral locks divided by a central parting, covering the small ears, and is tied into a non-visible bun at the nape covered by the crown.  

This Borghese head finds a convincing comparison – especially in the hair rendition – in a work in the Magazzino Vaticano (Kaschnitz-Weinberg, cat. 80, p. 48, tav. XXIII) considered to be a Roman creation deriving from a work from the second half of the fourth century BCE and compared with the head of the Apollo Citharoedus in the Hall of the Muses (Vatican Museums, Pio Clementino Museum, inv. 310; Flashar 1992, pp. 108-113, figg. 78-79), a neoclassical piece inspired by the Skopas models (Stewart 1977, p. 120). Despite the heavy reworking, some stylistic elements in the treatment of the hair and the irises suggest the Borghese head may date to the second century.

Jessica Clementi




Bibliography
  • Indicazione delle opere antiche di scultura esistenti nel primo piano della Villa Borghese, Roma 1840, p. 20, n. 14.
  • A. Nibby, Roma nell’anno 1838, Roma 1841, p. 921, n. 14.
  • Indicazione delle opere antiche di scultura esistenti nel primo piano della Villa Borghese, Roma 1854 (1873), p. 29, n. 12.
  • A. Venturi, Il Museo e la Galleria Borghese, Roma 1893, p. 44.
  • G. Giusti, La Galerie Borghèse et la Ville Humbert Premier à Rome, Roma 1904, p. 32.
  • P. Della Pergola, La Galleria Borghese in Roma, Roma 1954, p. 20.
  • R. Calza, Catalogo del Gabinetto fotografico Nazionale, Galleria Borghese, Collezione degli oggetti antichi, Roma 1957, p. 10, n. 57.
  • M. Flashar, Apollon Kitharodos. Statuarische Typen des musischen Apollon, Köln 1992, pp. 108-113.
  • A. F. Stewart, Skopas of Paros, New York 1977, p. 120, tav. 50 d.
  • P. Moreno, C. Stefani, Galleria Borghese, Milano 2000, p. 177, n. 9.
  • P. Moreno, A. Viacava, I marmi antichi della Galleria Borghese. La collezione archeologica di Camillo e Francesco Borghese, Roma 2003, p. 240, n. 230.
  • Scheda di catalogo 01008462, P. Moreno 1976; aggiornamento G. Ciccarello 2021