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Statue of a Seated Emperor, torso

Roman art

According to Nibby, this torso was unearthed in 1826 during excavations in the Lucidi vineyard in the area between Frascati and Monte Porzio Catone, which was owned by the Borghese family. It is the torso of a seated nude male figure, larger than life size, with a himation draped over his left shoulder and hanging down to cover his back.

The statue probably portrays a divinised emperor, following the iconographic type of the Capitoline Jupiter attributed to the sculptor Apollonius.

Composed of separate elements in antiquity, the sculpture is datable to the first century CE.

Object details

I secolo d.C.
white marble
altezza cm 95

Borghese Collection, probably from the excavation carried out in 1826 in the area between Frascati and Monte Porzio Catone, in the Lucidi vineyard (Nibby 1841, p. 910, no. 22); cited for the first time in the Palazzina Borghese, on display in the Portico, by Nibby (Nibby 1832, p. 17, no. 6, pl. 2c); Inventario Fidecommissario Borghese, 1833, C., p. 42, no. 13. Purchased by the Italian State, 1902.

Conservation and Diagnostic
  • 1826–1832 - Restoration and insertion of pins into the joins of the legs and the right arm
  • 2008 - Consorzio Capitolino di Elisabetta Zatti ed Elisabetta Caracciolo


This torso, which is larger than life size, portrays a nude male figure with a lean, sculpted physique, leaning slightly to the right. A type of mantle called a himation is draped over his left shoulder, covering his left pectoral in a soft sinus and hanging elegantly down his back. The anatomical rendering of the figure depicts the body of a mature adult. The pectorals are large and well defined, as is the ‘epigastric arch’. The linea alba follows the curve of the body as it flexes to the right, and the belly button is defined with a small circular hole.

The sculpture seems to have been assembled in antiquity from separate elements. The work done to prepare for inserting components can be seen in the cavity of the neck and the join of the left arm below the drapery. There are also holes for pins in the join of the right arm and the legs, the intention probably having been to use them for restoration work that was then never done.

We learn from Nibby that it was unearthed during excavations commissioned by Prince Camillo Borghese in 1820 in a vineyard owned by the family in Santa Croce, between Monte Porzio and Frascati, granted in emphyteusis to Cesare Lucidi. The discovery was made in 1826 (Nibby 1841, p. 910, no. 22; Moreno, Sforzini 1987, pp. 347–348). According to Valenti, who studied the works unearthed in the Lucidi vineyard, the archaeological exploration was carried out in a single campaign between 1820 and 1821 and the date reported by Nibby was a slip of the pen (Valenti 2003, p. 188, note 17).

Nibby reported that it was in the Portico of the Palazzina Borghese and described it as ‘beautiful in every respect’, identifying it as ‘part of a statue of a seated emperor, represented in a pose similar to that of the Tiberius in the Museo Chiaramonti’ (1832, p. 17, no. 6). In 1841, the author specified that the sculpture was set on a cippus of Statius (p. 910, no. 22). Lippold noted the sculpture’s similarity to the statue of Tiberius found in Cerveteri and now in the Museo Gregoriano Profano, finding the Borghese exemplar ‘coarser’ (1925, p. 3, no. 2710; Giuliano 1957, p. 32, no. 35a, pls 21–22).   

As for the Borghese sculpture, it probably portrays a divinised emperor inspired by the Capitoline Jupiter type attributed to the sculptor Apollonius, the most representative exemplar of which is the ‘Verospi’ Zeus in the Hall of the Busts in the Vatican Museum (Amelung 1908, p. 519, no. 326, pl. 73). Similar iconography is found in the portrait of Emperor Claudius that was unearthed in the theatre of Cerveteri. Now in the Museo Gregoriano Profano, it is datable to the first century CE, which is likely also the period of the present sculpture (Rosso 2019, pp. 48–50, fig. 12).

Giulia Ciccarello

  • A. Nibby, Monumenti scelti della Villa Borghese, Roma 1832, p.17, n. 6, tav. 2c.
  • Indicazione delle opere antiche di scultura esistenti nel primo piano della Villa Borghese, Roma 1840, p. 6, n. 22.
  • A. Nibby, Roma nell’anno 1838, Roma 1841, p. 910, n. 22.
  • Indicazione delle opere antiche di scultura esistenti nel primo piano della Villa Borghese, Roma 1854 (1873), p. 7, n. 26.
  • A. Venturi, Il Museo e la Galleria Borghese, Roma 1893, p. 12.
  • G. Giusti, La Galleria Borghese e la Villa di Umberto Primo a Roma, Roma 1903, p. 14.
  • W. Amelung, Die Sculpturen des Vatikanischen Museums, II, Berlin 1908, p. 519, n. 326, tav. 73.
  • W. Amelung, P. Arndt, G. Lippold, Photographische Einzelaufnahmen antiker Skulpturen, X, 1, München 1925, p. 3, n. 2710.
  • A. Giuliano, Catalogo dei ritratti romani del Museo profano lateranense, Città del Vaticano 1957, p. 32, n. 35a, tavv. 21-22.
  • P. Moreno, Museo e Galleria Borghese, La collezione archeologica, Roma 1980, p. 8.
  • P. Moreno, S. Staccioli, Le collezioni della Galleria Borghese, Milano 1981, p. 101.
  • 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, p. 348, fig. 2.
  • M. Valenti, Gli scavi Borghese nella Vigna Lucidi a Frascati, in “Lazio e Sabina”, II, atti del convegno (a cura di) G. Ghini, Roma 7-8 maggio 2003, pp. 187-192, in part. pp. 188-189, nota 15.
  • E. Rosso, I ritratti di Claudio, in Claudio Imperatore. Messalina, Agrippina e le ombre di una dinastia, a cura di C. Parisi Presicce, L. Spagnuolo, (catalogo della mostra), Roma 2019, pp. 45-51.
  • Scheda di catalogo 12/01008304, P. Moreno 1976; aggiornamento G. Ciccarello 2020