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Portrait Statue of Salonina

Roman art

Statue of a woman, larger than life size, with a portrait head of Empress Salonina, wife of Gallienus, that was probably originally a portrait of Faustina the Younger.

The standing figure is wrapped in drapery and places her weight on her right leg. She is wearing a long chiton, gathered tight beneath her breasts with a knotted ribbon, and a voluminous mantle called a himation. She is holding a patera in her left hand. The sculpture was carved in an urban imperial workshop in the second half of the second century CE.

The head and face were reworked during the rule of Gallienus. The composition and iconography of the work are based on a Hellenistic model dating to the end of the fourth century BCE.

Object details

150-170 d.C., rielaborazione 260-268 d.C.
fine grain white marble
height cm 211

Borghese Collection, first documented in 1819. Inventario fidecommissario Borghese, 1833, C., p. 43, no. 28. Purchased by the Italian State, 1902.

Conservation and Diagnostic
  • 1819 Felice Festa
  • 1995 P. Mastropasqua


This iconic sculpture, larger than life size, represents a woman wrapped in drapery who can be identified as an empress. The work entered the Villa Borghese’s antiquities collection in 1819, when various marble objects and statues were moved there from the Villa Mondragone and Palazzo in Campo Marzio (AAV, Arch. Borghese 8096, no. 145; Moreno, Sforzini 1987, p. 346).

When it first entered the Villa Pinciana, it was mistakenly identified as Juno. When the display in Room I was updated, the work was restored by Felice Festa, an expert sculptor active during the same period as Francesco Massimiliano Laboureur. Festa completed the arms, hands, attribute, nose, corners of the base and toes. The sculptor also filled some missing areas in the drapery folds.

The standing figure puts her weight on her right leg, while the left leg is slightly bent and moved back. The right arm and hand are restored, while the left is ancient. The left hand is holding a patera, a liturgical object used for liberations during religious ceremonies. This attribute might refer to imperial pietas. Festa added the patera, but the original sculpture would have had one as well, and the restorations were carried out ‘in keeping with the ancient manner’ (AAV, Arch. Borghese 1005, no. 158; Moreno, Sforzini 1987, p. 346). The more recent restoration involved the deep cleaning of the marble surface, which had become yellow due to the ageing of the patina, removal of the plaster that had been used to fill cracks, lacunae and joins between added material and elimination of encrustations.

The figure is wearing a long, pleated sleeved garment called a chiton, which is gathered tight beneath the breasts with a knotted ribbon. A voluminous mantle, the himation, covers the back of her head, wraps around her left arm and encircles her hips with sinuous drapery.

The portrait head inserted onto this iconic statue is fascinating evidence of the ancient Roman practice of reworking sculptures.

The traces of original hair suggest that the first portrait was of Faustina the Younger, wife of Marcus Aurelius. This would be consistent with the dating of the work as a whole (150–170 CE). The hair is parted in the middle and arranged in wide waves to just above the ears. Traces of Faustina’s hair, worn in braids running sideways along the head, are visible behind the left ear,

The face was heavily reworked to represent Salonina, wife of Gallienus, in a portrait that tallies with the empresses’ likeness on coins (260–268 CE). The reduction of the marble can also be noted in the disproportion between the face and the size of the ears, carved from the veil. Like the hair, the mantle was simplified and moved back. A fold of drapery on top of the head was, for example, turned into a braid.

The composition of the work draws on a Hellenistic model from the late fourth century BCE, specifically Tyche or Fortune, an iconographic type frequently used during the imperial age for iconic statues. The body of the Borghese exemplar was reworked by a Roman sculpture workshop in the mid second century CE. Both of the imperial portraits would have been produced in an official workshop.

The Fidecommesso Borghese of 1833 reports that the statue, mistakenly identified as Livia, was in the villa’s hall (p. 43, no. 28). It is worth noting the aesthetic and compositional decision to display the empress dressed as a priestess next to the entrance to the Galleria, opposite and as a pendant to the statue of Augustus as Pontifex Maximus.

  • A. Nibby, Monumenti scelti della Villa Borghese, Roma 1832, p. 46, n. 9.
  • Indicazione delle opere antiche di scultura esistenti nel primo piano della Villa Borghese, Roma 1840, p. 9, n. 10.
  • A. Nibby, Roma nell’anno 1838, Roma 1841, p. 912.
  • Indicazione delle opere antiche di scultura esistenti nel primo piano della Villa Borghese, Roma 1854 (1873), p. 10, n. 10.
  • A. Venturi, Il Museo e la Galleria Borghese, Roma 1893, p. 14.
  • G. Giusti, La Galerie Borghèse et la Ville Humbert Premier à Rome, Roma 1904, p. 17.
  • W. Helbig, Führer durch die öffentlichen Sammlungen klassischer Altertümer in Rom, II, a cura di W. Amelung, Leipzig 1913 (3a), pp. 229-253 (Villa Borghese), in part. p. 235.
  • G. Lippold, Kopien und Umbildungen griechischer Statuen, München 1923, p. 214.
  • S. Reinach, Répertoire de la statuaire grecque et romaine, V, 1, Paris 1924, p. 127, n. 1.
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  • G. Lippold, Die Griechische Plastik, Handbuch der Archäologie, München1950, p. 312.
  • H. Blanck, Wiederverwendung alter Statuen als Ehrendenkmiiler bei Griechen und Römern, Köln1963, pp. 119-120.
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  • W. Helbig, Führer durch die öffentlichen Sammlungen klassischer Altertümer in Rom, II, a cura di H. Speier, Tübingen 1966 (4a), pp. 708-709, n. 1948 (von Heintze).
  • P. Moreno, Museo e Galleria Borghese, La collezione archeologica, Roma 1980, p. 10.
  • P. Moreno, S. Staccioli, Le collezioni della Galleria Borghese, Milano 1981, p. 102.
  • 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. 339-371; in part. pp. 346347.
  • P. Moreno, Ch. Stefani, Galleria Borghese, Milano 2000, p. 53, n. 13a (Moreno).
  • P. Moreno, A. Viacava, I marmi antichi della Galleria Borghese. La collezione archeologica di Camillo e Francesco Borghese, Roma 2003, pp. 123-124, n. 86.
  • Scheda di catalogo 12/ 01008348, P. Moreno 1975; aggiornamento G. Ciccarello 2021