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Male Figure in Heroic Nudity

Roman art


This sculpture is depicted in a print by Venturini dated 1791, where it is shown in a niche in the wall to the side of a fountain opposite the entrance to the theatre. In 1832, it was mentioned in the sixth room of the Palazzina and in 1841, the eighth.

The standing figure is placing his weight on his right leg, while the left is moved slightly off to the side. The man is nude with the exception of a mantle called a paludamentum, which is fastened with a fibula over his left shoulder and draped over his right arm. He is holding a long dagger without a tip called a parazonium in his left hand. The sculpture, the torso and the upper part of the legs of which are ancient, has been identified by scholars as a portrait of either Emperor Antoninus Pius or Commodus.

The modern restoration of the statue prevents us from precisely identifying the original subject, but it was probably a figure in heroic nudity, and so an individual of considerable importance, and datable to the second century CE.


Object details

Inventory
CCXXXIV
Location
Date
2nd century A.D.
Classification
Medium
marmo
Dimensions
height without plinth 145 cm; ancient part 110 cm
Provenance

Borghese Collection, depicted in a niche in the wall to the side of a fountain opposite the entrance to the theatre by Venturini in about 1691 (Falda, pl. 12); inside the Palazzina, it was reported in the sixth room in 1832 and in the eighth in 1841 (Nibby, p. 130; p. 924, no. 9); Inventario Fidecommissario Borghese, 1833, C., p. 54, no. 184. Purchased by the Italian State, 1902.

Conservation and Diagnostic
  • 1966 Tito Minguzzi
  • 1996-97 Liana Persichelli

Commentary

This figure, the torso and upper part of the legs of which are ancient, is represented standing with the weight of the body on the right leg, which is leaning against a tree trunk, while the left leg, the heel of the left foot lifted off the ground, is slightly moved to the back. His right arm is hanging down along his side, while the left is slightly bent and he holds a parazonium, a type of short sword with a dull tip and a richly decorated hilt in his left hand. The figure is nude with the exception of a mantle called a paludamentum, which is draped across his upper chest and fastened with a fibula over his right shoulder, hanging down his back and then draped over his left arm. His head is turned slightly to the right, and he wears a laurel wreath on his thick curly hair. His eyes, which have incised irises, are looking upward, with a subtly melancholic air.   He has small, full lips and his slightly open mouth is surrounded by a short beard. The sculpture is depicted in a print by Venturini dated 1791, where it is shown in a niche in the wall to the side of a fountain opposite the entrance to the theatre (Falda, pl. 12).. Inside the Palazzina, Nibby reported it in the sixth room, describing it as an ‘imperial statue’ that originally portrayed Antoninus Pius. He also considered the head to be modern, specifically finding it to be in ‘lo stile del declinare del secolo XVI’ (‘the sixteenth-century expressive style’; p. 130). In 1841, the same author reported it in the eighth room, describing it as a ‘statua d’un guerriero con testa simile quella di Antonino Pio’ (‘statue of a warrior with a head similar to that of Antoninus Pius’; p. 924, no. 9). In 1957, Calza described it as a ‘tipo eroico con testa-ritratto moderna di tipo Commodo’ (‘heroic type with a modern portrait head of the Commodus type’; p. 8, no. 18). Lastly, Moreno argues that it was inspired by models from the circle of Polyclitus, based on the pose and handling of anatomy (2003, pp. 252–253, no. 242). The heavy restoration work and absence of attributes prevent us from precisely identifying the original subject. We can, however, imagine that it depicts a person who was of considerable importance, in heroic nudity, and that it was probably made during the second century CE.

Giulia Ciccarello




Bibliography
  • G. B. Falda, Le fontane di Roma, III, Roma 1691 ca., tav. 12.
  • A. Nibby, Monumenti scelti della Villa Borghese, Roma 1832, p.130.
  • Indicazione delle opere antiche di scultura esistenti nel primo piano del Palazzo della Villa Borghese, Roma 1840, p. 24, n. 9.
  • A. Nibby, Roma nell’anno 1838, Roma 1841, p. 924, n. 9.
  • Indicazione delle opere antiche di scultura esistenti nel primo piano della Villa Borghese”, Roma 1854 (1873), p. 28, n. 10.
  • A. Venturi, Il Museo e la Galleria Borghese, Roma 1893, p. 48.
  • G. Giusti, La Galleria Borghese e la Villa Umberto I in Roma, Roma 1904, p. 33.
  • A. De Rinaldis, La R. Galleria Borghese in Roma, 1935, p. 17.
  • M. Wegner, Die Herrscherbildnisse in antoninischer Zeit, in “Das römische Herrscherbild, Abteilung”, 2, 4 Berlin 1939, p. 277.
  • P. Della Pergola, La Galleria Borghese in Roma, (3° Edizione), Roma 1954, p. 22.
  • R. Calza, Catalogo del Gabinetto fotografico Nazionale, Galleria Borghese, Collezione degli oggetti antichi, Roma 1957, p. 8, n. 18.
  • P. Moreno, Museo e Galleria Borghese, La collezione archeologica, Roma 1980, p. 20.
  • P. Moreno, S. Staccioli, Le collezioni della Galleria Borghese, Milano 1981, p. 102, fig. a p. 90.
  • H. Herdejürgens, Antike und modern Reliefs in der Villa Borghese, in “Archäologischer Anzeiger“, 4, 1997, pp. 479-503.
  • P. Moreno, C. Stefani, Galleria Borghese, Milano 2000, p. 188, n. 4.
  • P. Moreno, A. Viacava, I marmi antichi della Galleria Borghese. La collezione archeologica di Camillo e Francesco Borghese, Roma 2003, pp. 252-253, n. 242.
  • Schede di catalogo 12/99000016, G. Ciccarello 2020.