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Statue of a Nymph with a Basin, head not original to the body

Roman art

The lower half of this female figure is wrapped in drapery, gathered on her left hip, while her torso, down to her abdomen, is nude. She is leaning forward and holds a modern basin in her hands. Her head, which is ancient but not original to the body, is slightly turned to the right. Her hair is gathered in the back and encircled with a thin band.

The work is an exemplar of the Venus Anadyomene type, meaning ‘Venus rising from the sea’, based on a late-Hellenistic original, the Venus Landolina of Syracuse, in turn based on the Aphrodite of Knidos attributed to Praxiteles.

The sculpture was likely made to decorate a fountain or a nymphaeum and is datable to the second century CE.

Object details

II secolo d.C.
white marble
height without plinth cm 139; height of the head cm 25

From the Della Porta Collection, which was sold to the Borghese family in 1609 (Appendice Vc, AB 348, Tomo III, n. 30: de Lachenal 1982 pp. 60, 94). In the Borghese Collection, it is listed in the Regesto of 1828 among the statues selected to be restored and displayed in the galleries (Moreno, Sforzini 1987, pp. 350–353); in 1832, it was in Room VI (Nibby 1832, pp. 111–112). Inventario Fidecommissario Borghese, 1833, C., p. 51, no. 143. Purchased by the Italian State, 1902.

Conservation and Diagnostic
  • 19th century - Restoration of the big toe on the left foot, the right foot and the basin. 1996–97 - Liana Persichelli


This bronze was probably in the Della Porta Collection, which was purchased by the Borghese family in 1609. In the inventory of the collection, at no. 51, we find a ‘ninfa con un uaso per fonte, d’altezza del naturale’ (‘nymph with a vessel for a fountain, life size’), evidently already restored (Appendice Vc, AB 348, Tomo III, n. 30: de Lachenal 1982 pp. 60, 94). In 1826, it was included on the list of ‘Statue ed Oggetti di Scultura esistenti a Villa Borghese e giudicati degni di Ristauro, per collocarsi nell’interno del Casino Nobile della Medesima’ (‘Statues and Sculpted Objects at the Villa Borghese and deemed worthy of restoration, to then be displayed in the Casino Nobile of same’). This document, which was sent by Minister Evasio Gozzani to Prince Camillo Borghese, listed the sculptures that had been selected for display in the rooms that had been stripped by the sale to Napoleon (Moreno, Sforzini 1987, pp. 350–353). In 1832, Nibby mentioned it in Room IV, now Room VI, describing it as a ‘ninfa con lebete’ (‘nymph with a lebes’), which he considered to be modern. The scholar found it to be comparable to the Danaid in the Vatican Museum, assessing the small differences between the two, resulting from restoration, but recognised that the Borghese sculpture was ‘inferiore per merito di esecuzione’ (‘of inferior workmanship’; 1832, pp. 111–112, no. 4). Helbig agreed with the pairing of the two sculptures, considering them to be copies of a single archetype (despite the non-original head of the Borghese exemplar) and originally made as part of a fountain (1891, p. 157 no. 926). Lippold, who detailed the work that had been done on the sculpture, specified that it is composed of two parts, the upper of which is the result of restoration (1925, p. 14, no. 2754).  According to Calza, the head, which is not original to the body, is an iconographic type traceable to Praxiteles (1957 p. 8, no. 26).

The lower part of the young woman’s body is covered with a himation gathered around her hips. She is leaning forward, with her arms outstretched to hold a basin. The weight of her body seems to be supported by her slightly bent right leg and balanced by the left leg, which is brought forward. The drapery, which pools on the ground, reveals her toes. Her mantle is gathered around her left hip and falls to the ground in tangled folds. The figure’s head is bowed and turned slightly to the right. Her hair is a mass of compact locks, lightly incised to define the individual waves. Parted in the middle, it is held by a taenia. The features of her triangular face are elegant and clear. Her fine brow is seamlessly joined with her straight nose and her almond-shaped eyes are only minimally indicated.  She has small, full lips and a closed mouth, and her circular chin is slightly protruding. The nymph, which is datable to the second century CE, is related to the Venus Anadyomene type, meaning ‘Venus rising from the sea’, one of the numerous replicas of the late Hellenistic Venus Landolina of Syracuse, which was in turn inspired by Praxiteles’s Aphrodite of Knidos, from the fourth century BCE. The sculpture can be fruitfully compared to a statue of a nymph holding a shell in her hands in the Louvre (Ma 257: Gaultier, Haumesser, Trofimova 2018, p. 76) and two others in the Torlonia Collection (Reinach 1897, p. 405, no. 4,5). There are also two other exemplars of the type, with variants, in the Borghese Collection: one in the portico (inv. CLXX) and another in Room VII (inv. CCXV).

In Roman imperial sculpture, the motif was used for the decoration of fountains and nymphaea.  

Giulia Ciccarello

  • A. Nibby, Monumenti scelti della Villa Borghese, Roma 1832, pp. 111-114, n. 4, tav. 33.
  • Indicazione delle opere antiche di scultura esistenti nel primo piano della Villa Borghese, Roma 1840, p. 21, n. 8.
  • A. Nibby, Roma nell’anno 1838, Roma 1841, p. 922, n. 8.
  • Indicazione delle opere antiche di scultura esistenti nel primo piano della Villa Borghese, Roma 1854 (1873), p. 24, n. 8.
  • A. Venturi, Il Museo e la Galleria Borghese, Roma 1893, p. 42.
  • S. Reinach, Répertoire de la statuaire grecque et romaine, II. 1, Paris 1897, p. 405, nn. 3-5.
  • G. Giusti, La Galleria Borghese e la Villa di Umberto I a Roma, Roma 1903, p. 31.
  • Photographische Einzelaufnahmen antiker Sculpturen, X, 1 Munchen 1926, p. 14, n. 2754 (G. Lippold).
  • R. Calza, Catalogo del Gabinetto fotografico Nazionale, Galleria Borghese, Collezione degli oggetti antichi, Roma 1957, p. 8, n. 26.
  • P. Della Pergola, La Galleria Borghese in Roma, (3° Edizione), Roma 1954, p. 18.
  • P. Moreno, Museo e Galleria Borghese, La collezione archeologica, Roma 1980, p. 17.
  • P. Moreno, S. Staccioli, Le collezioni della Galleria Borghese, Roma 1981, p. 101, fig. p. 87.
  • L. De Lachenal, La collezione di sculture antiche della famiglia Borghese e il palazzo in Campo Marzio, in “Xenia”, 4, 1982, pp. 49-117, in part. pp. 60, 94.
  • 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. 350, 353.
  • P. Moreno, C. Stefani, Galleria Borghese, Milano 2000, p. 161, n. 9.
  • P. Moreno, A. Viacava, I marmi antichi della Galleria Borghese. La collezione archeologica di Camillo e Francesco Borghese, Roma 2003, p. 228, n. 214.
  • F. Gaultier, L. Haumesser, A. Trofimova, Un rêve d'Italie. La collection du marquis Campana, catalogo della mostra, Paris, Musée du Louvre, 8 novembre 2018 - 18 février, Paris, 2018, p. 76.
  • Scheda di catalogo 12/01008476, P. Moreno 1975; aggiornamento G. Ciccarello 2020.