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Portrait Statue of a Young Girl

Roman art

This statue portrays a young girl wearing a sleeved chiton, which extends to her feet, and a peplos that is fastened at her shoulders and cinched with a bow beneath her chest. Her face is full and childlike, with elongated eyes and a small, full mouth with a hint of a smile. She has thick hair that falls in comma-like ringlets and surrounds her face with a frame of individual curls. This work, which has been the subject of exhaustive study, is considered a replica and scholars date it variously to between the Neronian and Antonine periods, based on models from the fourth century BCE.

Identified by De Rossi in 1821 as a portrait of Agrippina the Younger, the young bride of Domitius Ahenobarbus, it was reported in the fourth room of the Palazzina Borghese 1832 and in the sixth room in 1893.

The distinctive hair, with its carefully defined curls, and the facial features suggest a date for the sculpture of around the first century CE.

Object details

I sec. d.C.
Pentelic marble
height without plint cm 130; height of the head cm 17

Borghese Collection, described for the first time in Illustrazioni de’ monumenti scelti Borghesiani (1821); Nibby mentioned it in the fourth room in 1832 and Venturi reported in the sixth room in 1893 (1832, pp. 114–115; 1893, p. 42). Inventario fidecommissario Borghese, 1833, C., p. 51, no. 150. Purchased by the Italian State, 1902.

Conservation and Diagnostic
  • Restoration work on the head: the nose; the body: right arm from the middle of the upper part to the wrist, right hand, left forearm and left hand. Some of the folds of the garment. The ancient plinth was inserted in a modern one.
  • 1918 - Cesare Fossi: ‘restored two fingers’
  • 1996–97 - Liana Persichelli


This sculpture portrays a young girl standing with her right leg slightly bent and to the side. She is wearing a sleeved chiton and a peplos, which is knotted below her chest with a thin lace, tied in a bow. Her garment, which is fastened over the shoulders, has a long apoptygma, fold of fabric that drapes over her hips and its gently held up with her left hand. The elegant drapery of the sleeves is fastened with a row of small buttons. On the lower part of the body, the garment is rendered in deep parallel folds that shift to the right to accommodate the slightly advanced right leg. Her head is slightly turned to the left and she has a thick head of short, disorderly ringlets that crown the forehead with comma-shaped locks oriented toward the right. Her full face has chubby cheeks and generous lips. Wide brows frame her elongated eyes, which have swollen eyelids.

In one of the first descriptions of the work, Rossi identified it in 1821 as Agrippina the Younger, the young bride of Domitius Ahenobarbus. The scholar attributed the absence of decoration worthy of an Augusta to her marriage to a ‘private citizen’ and noted the good quality of the statue, although he did not consider it the ‘height of beauty’ (1821, p. 106, pl. 46). In 1832, Nibby mentioned it in the fourth room and dated it to the age of Septimius Severus, while Venturi, in 1893, reported it in its current location, the sixth room, and identified it as an empress dating to the Antonine period (1832, pp. 114–115; 1893, p. 42). Only one scholar, Platner, has argued that the head is not original (1838, p. 252, no. 11). Helbig considers the sculpture to be a funerary copy of a fourth-century Greek original and, based on the chubby face and extremely carefully defined curls, dated it to the Flavian period (1913, p. 246, no. 1554). Lippold shared this thinking, identifying the head as a portrait of a little girl contemporary to the Ludovisi group by the Greek sculptor Menelaus, who was active between the first century BCE and the first century CE (1825, p. 15, nos 2757–2759). This comparison was also supported by von Steuben, Borda, who linked the face of Electra in the Ludovisi group to Julio-Claudian portraiture, and Calza, who dated the work to the Neronian period (1966, p. 738, no. 1984; 1953, p. 114, figs. 30, 31, 39; 1957 p. 14, nos 127–129). In 1991, Amedick linked the hairstyle to that of Claudia Octavia, Nero’s first wife (p. 387, pl. 101, 3).

Finally, the handling of the drapery seems to draw on models from the fifth and sixth centuries BCE, of which the Borghese seems to be a copy, datable to the first century CE.

Giulia Ciccarello

  • De Rossi, Agrippina giovane, in “Illustrazioni de’ monumenti scelti borghesiani già esistenti nella villa sul Pincio scritte dal celebre Ennio Quirino Visconti ... date ora per la prima volta in luce dal cav. Gio. Gherardo de Rossi e da Stefano Piale sotto la cura di Vincenzo Feoli, I, Roma 1821, p. 106, tav. XLVI.
  • A. Nibby, Monumenti scelti della Villa Borghese, Roma 1832, pp. 114-115, n.7.
  • Indicazione delle opere antiche di scultura esistenti nel primo piano della Villa Borghese, Roma 1840, p. 23, n. 11.
  • A. Nibby, Roma nell’anno 1838, Roma 1841, p. 922, n. 11.
  • E. Platner, Beschreibung der Stadt Rom, III, 2, Tübingen 1842, p. 252, n. 11.
  • Indicazione delle opere antiche di scultura esistenti nel primo piano della Villa Borghese”, Roma 1854 (1873), p. 25, n. 11.
  • A. Venturi, Il Museo e la Galleria Borghese, Roma 1893, p. 42.
  • G. Giusti, La Galerie Borghèse et la Ville Humbert Premier à Rome, Roma 1919, p. 44.
  • W. Helbig, Führer durch die öffentlichen Sammlungen klassischer Altertümerin Rom (3° Edizione), a cura di W. Amelung, II, Leipzig 1913, p. 246, n. 1554.
  • W. Amelung, P. Arndt, G. Lippold, Photographische Einzelaufnahmen antiker Sculpturen, X, 1, München 1925, p. 15, n. 2757-2759.
  • S. Reinach, Répertoire de la statuaire grecque et romaine, VI, Paris 1930, p. 99, n. 2.
  • M. Borda, La scuola di Pasiteles, Bari 1953, p. 114, figg. 30, 31, 39.P. Della Pergola, La Galleria Borghese in Roma, (3° Edizione) Roma 1954, p. 18.
  • R. Calza, Catalogo del Gabinetto fotografico Nazionale, Galleria Borghese, Collezione degli oggetti antichi, Roma 1957, p. 14, nn. 127-129.
  • W. Helbig, H. Speier, Führer durch die öffentlichen Sammlungen klassischer Altertümer in Rom, (4a edizione), a cura di H. Speier, II, Tübingen 1966, p. 738, n. 1984 (von Steuben).
  • P. Moreno, Museo e Galleria Borghese, La collezione archeologica, Roma 1980, p. 18.
  • P. Moreno, Le collezioni della Galleria Borghese, Milano 1981, p. 101, fig. a p. 89.
  • R. Amedick, Die Kinder des Kaisers Claudius. Zu den Porträts des Tiberius Claudius Britannicus und der Octavia Claudia, in “Mitteilungen des Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts. Römische Abteilung”, 89, 1991, p. 387, tav. 101,3.
  • P. Moreno, C. Stefani, Galleria Borghese, Milano 2000, p. 164, n. 15.
  • P. Moreno, A. Viacava, I marmi antichi della Galleria Borghese. La collezione archeologica di Camillo e Francesco Borghese, Roma 2003, p. 231, n. 218.
  • Scheda di catalogo 12/01008479, P. Moreno 1976; aggiornamento G. Ciccarello 2020