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Portrait of Domitia Lucilla, on a modern bust

Roman art

This head depicts an adult woman with clearly defined features, almond-shaped eyes with incised irises, small, closed lips and elaborately styled hair. Above her forehead, her lightly incised wavy locks are parted in the middle and held by a thin hairband.  On top of her head, her hair is arranged to form a kind of ‘turban’ made up of three layers of braids The portrait seems to evoke the features of Faustina the Elder, wife of Emperor Antoninus Pius, or those of his sister-in-law, Domitia Lucilla, mother of Emperor Marcus Aurelius, as found in imperial iconography.

The Borghese sculpture would therefore be datable to the middle of the second century CE.

Object details

circa metà II secolo d.C.
white marble
height cm 40

Borghese Collection, the sculpture is cited for the first time in the inventory tied to the primogeniture instituted by Giovanni Battista Borghese in 1610 (de Lachenal 1982 pp. 66–97); inside the Palazzina, it is mentioned in 1841 in its current location, Room VIII (Nibby 1841, p. 925, no. 17); Inventario Fidecommissario Borghese, 1833, C., p. 53, no. 177. Purchased by the Italian State, 1902.

Conservation and Diagnostic
  • 19th century - Antonio D’Este: restoration of the nose, ears and torso
  • 1963 - Ermenegildo Pedrazzoni
  • 1996–97 - Liana Persichelli


This portrait is listed in the inventory linked to the primogeniture established by Giovanni Battista Borghese in 1610, where it appears at no. 85 as a ‘Testa di Faustina con busto e braccio involto nella veste’ (‘Head of Faustina with torso and arm wrapped in drapery’; Archivio Borghese, no. 37, Tomo XVI, Atti di famiglia, no. 616, no. 55: de Lachenal 1982 pp. 66–97). Later, in 1828, it was included in the quinta nota among the works selected for restoration by Antonio D’Este (Moreno, Sforzini 1987, pp. 342, 361). In 1841, Nibby mentioned it in its current location, Room VIII (Nibby 1841, p. 925, no. 17). The portrait depicts a woman in a rigidly frontal position, placed on a modern bust. The face is oval-shaped and slightly elongated, with small, closed lips. Two indentations in the corners of the mouth highlight the lower lip. The figure’s almond-shaped eyes are looking up and to the left. She has incised irises, and her eyebrows are joined in the middle. Her hair is elaborately styled. Starting at the hair line above her forehead, two wavy bands start from a central part, intertwining to form a series of waves separated by a smooth, narrow hairband and tucked behind the ears, which are uncovered. On top of her head, her hair is arranged into a kind of turban formed by three layers of flat braids encircling her head. The interior of the individual locks is slightly incised.

The woman’s features and hairstyle seem to recall the portraiture of Faustina the Elder, wife of Emperor Antoninus Pius, in particular the less elaborate variant identified by Wegner and labelled ‘Imperatori 36’, after the exemplar in the Capitoline Museum, dated to the first part of Antoninus Pius’ reign (Wegner 1939, pp. 26, 161, pl. 10). It differs from this portrait in a few important ways however, bringing it closer to the portraiture of Domitia Lucilla, sister-in-law of Faustina and mother of Marcus Aurelius. This interpretation is supported by comparison with a bust in Hanover and a portrait from Ostia now in the Sala a Croce Greca in the Vatican Museum, both of which portray Domitia at an advanced age (Leschi 1935, pp. 81–94; Calza 1964, no. 149). Considering the period during which the two women were granted the title Augusta, the Borghese sculpture would seem to be datable to the middle of the second century CE.

Giulia Ciccarello

  • Indicazione delle opere antiche di scultura esistenti nel primo piano della Villa Borghese, Roma 1840, p. 25, n. 17.
  • A. Nibby, Roma nell’anno 1838, Roma 1841, p. 925, n. 17.
  • Indicazione delle opere antiche di scultura esistenti nel primo piano della Villa Borghese”, Roma 1854 (1873), p. 29, n. 16.
  • A. Venturi, Il Museo e la Galleria Borghese, Roma 1893, p. 48.
  • G. Giusti, The Borghese Gallery and the Villa Umberto I in Rome, Città di Castello 1919, p. 46.
  • L. Leschi, Domitia Lucilla, mère de Marc-Aurèle, in “Mélanges d'archéologie et d'histoire”, 52, 1935, pp. 81-94.
  • M. Wegner, Das römische Herrscherbild: Die Herrscherbildnisse in antoninischer Zeit, in “Das römische Herrscherbild“, Abteilung 2, 4, Berlin, 1939, pp. 26, 161, tav. 10.
  • P. Della Pergola, La Galleria Borghese in Roma, (3° Edizione), Roma 1954, p. 21.
  • R. Calza, Catalogo del Gabinetto fotografico Nazionale, Galleria Borghese, Collezione degli oggetti antichi, Roma 1957, p. 15, n. 147.
  • R. Calza, Scavi di Ostia. 5, I ritratti. 1, Ritratti greci e romani fino al 160 circa d.C., Roma 1964, n. 149.
  • M. Wegner, Verzeichnis der Kaiserbildnisse von Antoninus Pius bis Commodus, in “Boreas“, 2, 1979, p. 135.
  • P. Moreno, Museo e Galleria Borghese, La collezione archeologica, Roma 1980, p. 21.
  • P. Moreno, S. Staccioli, Le collezioni della Galleria Borghese, Milano 1981, p. 101.
  • L. De Lachenal, La collezione di sculture antiche della famiglia Borghese e il palazzo in Campo Marzio, in “Xenia”, 4, 1982, pp. 66, 97 (Appendice VI, n. 85).
  • 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. 342, 361.
  • P. Moreno, Ch. Stefani, Galleria Borghese, Milano 2000, p. 200, n. 22.
  • P. Moreno, A. Viacava, I marmi antichi della Galleria Borghese. La collezione archeologica di Camillo e Francesco Borghese, Roma 2003, p. 258, n. 252.
  • Schede di catalogo 12/01008554, P. Moreno 1976; aggiornamento G. Ciccarello 2020.