This sculpture of a female figure in movement portrays Artemis. The head, however, does not belong to the body. The portrait dates to an earlier period and appears to be a private individual in the guise of the goddess, as suggested by the crescent moon decorating her hair. The insertion of a portrait head depicting a private citizen transforms this distinctive iconographic type, known as the Colonna Artemis, into an iconic statue. The head was added to the body in the modern period. The ancient part of the sculpture was carved in an urban workshop during the Roman imperial age. The iconographic rendering of the body is a variation on a well-documented type based on a Greek original from the fourth century BCE.
Borghese Collection, documented in Inventario fidecommissario Borghese, 1833, C., p. 42, no. 24. Purchased by the Italian State, 1902.
This sculpture depicts a life-size female figure in movement, wearing a sleeved chiton, Doric peplos and platform sandals. The iconography, pose and momentum created by the forward movement, which in turn generates the distinctive pattern of folds in the drapery (small and dense over the chest, wider and deeper between the legs), as well as the shape of the peplos with a band stretched across it diagonally like to a quiver strap, are all elements that identify the statue as a Colonna Artemis, named after the famous sculpture in Berlin that came from the Colonna Collection.
The head is ancient but does not belong to the body, as is clear from its disproportionate size in relation to the body’s height. The stylistic features and hairstyle of the woman portrayed in this private portrait, who would have been a high-ranking matron, date the head to an earlier period than that of the body. The soft, oval-shaped face has the features of an old woman, with hair styled in the way made fashionable by Marciana and Matidia, the sister and niece, respectively, of Trajan. It therefore likely dates to about 115 CE. As for the body, the style, drill marks and treatment of the marble surface suggest a date in the mid third century CE (about 250 CE).
This sculpture is a variant on the original model, another copy of which is found in the Borghese Collection, also displayed in the Salone in a symmetrical position in relation to the door (inv. LII). In the present case, the left arm is not raised in the gesture of taking an arrow out of the quiver, as is usual for this type, and is instead kept to the figure’s side. Further, the chiton beneath the peplos is sleeved, whereas in the iconography of the goddess this garment is sleeveless. Lastly, the absence of the quiver, which is suggested solely by the balteus that crosses diagonally over the chest, creating the distinctive folds of the peplos over the torso and accentuating the impression of movement. The latter, together with the chiton normally worn by matrons, suggests that the sculpture was originally conceived as an iconic statue in which the image of the goddess was ideologically adapted for the self-representation of a high-ranking private individual. The decision of the modern restorer to insert the portrait of a matron would therefore seem to be consistent. The forearms and attributes were also added in the modern period. The right arm, left foot, front part of the plinth, some of the folds along the legs, the neck and the edge of the drapery over the shoulders are all restored. These repairs were made with care and in imitation of ancient technique. It is possible that this work, like the insertion of the head, dates to the period when the statue was first displayed in the collection. The restoration in 1995 involved the removal of the plaster that had been used to cover or fill fissures, lacunae and joins between the additions.
The rendering of the drapery likens this variant to the Artemis of the Colonna type in the Vatican Museum (Braccio Nuovo). Indeed, the restorer seems to have looked at the Vatican copy for the position of the arms.
The iconographic type adopted by the ancient sculptor was very popular in the Roman world and is well documented in numerous exemplars from the imperial age (Amelung I, pp. 106–108). The archetype derives from a bronze original, attributed to either the school of Polykleitos (360–350 BCE) or an Attic sculptor (340–330 BCE) who anticipated the style of Hellenistic art.
In the Inventario del Fidecommesso Borghese of 1833, this sculpture is listed as no. 24, and as having been previously displayed in the Salone (p. 42).
Clara di Fazio