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Statue of Athena

Roman art

This small statuette in patinated bronze is an exemplar of the ‘Verona-Parma’ Athena type, standing with her weight on her right leg and her left slightly bent. She is wearing a peplos with an overfold called an apoptygma and, on her chest, an aegis decorated with a Gorgon head. The figure is missing some of the attributes typical of the iconographic type, including the spear, which she probably held in her left hand, and either a shield or a patera, which would have been held in her right.

During the eighteenth century, this small bronze was repaired with fill and attached, probably by the goldsmith Luigi Valadier, as a decorative element to a long gilt frame, alternated with three similar figurines and three small painted panels. There are many similar small bronzes in the Borghese Collection, although different in subject, that were also attached to frames and are currently preserved in the Palazzina’s storerooms.

The column-like pattern of the folds of her garment falling along her right leg and the hem of the peplos that comes down over her hips seem to have been influenced by Attic models from the middle of the fifth century BCE, the Borghese statuette being a copy datable to the first century CE.

Object details

1st century A.D.
altezza cm 9,8

Borghese Collection, documented in 1773. Purchased by the Italian State, 1902.

  • 2019 Roma, Galleria Borghese
Conservation and Diagnostic
  • 1773​​ Luigi Valadier, restoration and fill


In this statuette, the female figure is wearing a sleeved peplos with an overfold called a apoptygmaat the waist and, on her chest, a large, rectangular aegis with raised edges and a Gorgon head in the middle. Her left leg seems to be slightly bent and moved to the side, while her weight is placed on the right one. Her right arm is extended outward, and her left is bent at the elbow and raised upward. Although her features are heavily abraded, we can make out her large circular eyes with puffy eyelids and strong arched eyebrows.

The statuette is an exemplar of the ‘Verona-Parma’ Athena type, mainly due to the inclusion of the aegis (Poulsen 1977, pp. 20, 36, tipo 59 Reihe a). The balanced pose of the legs and the movement of the arms are also found in a statuette of Athena that came from Brescia and is now in the Museo di Santa Giulia (inv. MR 293: 2009, p. 70, no. 1, fig. 13). Her missing hands probably held the attributes typical of the goddess: the left hand would have held a spear and the right one a shield resting on the ground or a patera, a small tray used for libations. Her helmet with a tall crest was added during restoration.

This bronze is part of a group of similar statuettes of various subject preserved in the PalazzinaBorghese’s storerooms that are not mentioned in the inventories or bibliography relative to the archaeological collection. The works in this group seem to be the ‘alcune figurine accomodate’ (‘few repaired figurines’) reported in a receipt, dated 1773 and discovered by González-Palacios, relative to restoration work carried out by the goldsmith Luigi Valadier (2019, pp. 192–195; 1993, pp. 37, 50). The receipt describes filling in missing parts and attaching the figurines to gilt wooden panels of various shape, which Minozzi believes were made by Valadier himself (2019, pp. 192–195). The statuette of Athena was attached to a long gilt frame as a separator, along with three other small bronzes (inv. CCXCVIII, CCLXXXV, CCLXXXVI), for some small paintings. EDXRF analysis of the statuette for the exhibition Valadier. Splendore nella Roma del Settecento, held at the Galleria Borghese in 2019, confirmed its authenticity and identified the material as ternary bronze covered with a painted patina.

The rendering of the clothing with the hem of the overfold of the peplos hanging down over her hips and the band of vertical folds along her lower half suggest a date of the first century CE for the statuette, which was probably inspired by Attic models from the middle of the fifth century BCE .

Giulia Ciccarello 

  • A. González-Palacios, Il gusto dei principi. Arte di corte del XVII e del XVIII secolo, Milano 1993.
  • E. Poulsen, Probleme der Werkstattbestimmung gegossener römischer Figuralbronzen. Herstellungsmilieu und Materialstruktur, in “Acta Archaeologica”, 48, 1977, pp. 1-60.
  • M. Bolla, Bronzetti romani da Montecchio Maggiore e Isola Vicentina, in “Studi e ricerche, del Museo Civico «G. Zannato»”, 16, Vicenza 2009, p. 67-82.
  • M. Minozzi, Cornici con applicazioni di bronzetti antichi e moderni, in Valadier. Splendore nella Roma del Settecento, catalogo della mostra (a cura di G. Leardi), Roma 2019, pp. 192-195.
  • Schede di catalogo 12/01008577, P. Moreno 1979; aggiornamento G. Ciccarello 2020.