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Statue of Venus, Variation of the Landolina Type

Roman art

The semi-nude female statue depicts Venus, the goddess of love, in one of the numerous late Hellenistic variations extensively widespread during the Roman era. The figure stands on the left leg; the right is slightly bent forward. The bust is nude while the lower part of the body is wrapped in a rich long drape that the figure holds in her left hand wrapped around her hips, creating a sharp contrast between the softness of the body and the chiaroscuro frame created by the fabric. The modern head presents a fitting hairstyle, with curls falling onto the shoulders. It may be identifiable with the smaller than life-size Marine Venus described in the Visconti Guide of 1796 on the frames of the small windows of the Portico; restored and integrated after the nineteenth century restoration, the sculpture was first located in Room IV. The type to which it refers is that of the Landolina or Callipyge Aphrodite of Syracuse, named after its discoverer, the archaeologist Saverio Landolina Nava (Catania 1743 – Syracuse 1814).

Object details

I sec. d.C.
white marble
altezza senza plinto cm 128,5 (testa cm 18)

Borghese Collection (Visconti 1796, p. 6, n. 9)?; Inventario Fidecommissario Borghese, 1833, C, p. 52,n. 161. Purchased by the Italian State, 1902.

Conservation and Diagnostic
  • 19th century
  • 1966, Tito Minguzzi
  • 1996/97, Liana Persichelli


This smaller-than-life-size statue represents a bathing Venus. With her bust bent slightly forward, she covers her breast with her right hand while elegantly turning her head, and with her left hand holding an ample drape low on her hips which theatrically opens billowing in the wind, revealing her legs. The weight is on her left leg, while the right is bent. The head, lowered and gazing downward, is modern, but the hair with a central parting and two curls falling onto the shoulders follows the iconographic model of a fourth-century BCE Aphrodite.

It is perhaps possible to identify this statue with the smaller-than-life-size Marine Venus described in the Visconti and Lamberti Guide of 1796, placed on the frames of the small windows of the Portico together with seven other statues and compared in the description to the larger Venus that Prince Camillo sold to the Louvre in 1807.

The absence of the dolphin in this statue, which instead is mentioned in the guide as being right of the figure, can be explained with the modifications that followed the restoration and integration work on the statue in the nineteenth century – alterations which involved the plinth, the feet and part of the drapes. First exhibited in Room IV (AAV, Archivio Borghese, b. 348), in the Inventory of 9 May 1832 it is recorded as being in Room VII (AAV, Archivio Borghese, b. 457), where it is currently on display. The statue belongs to the iconographic tradition of the Chaste Aphrodite, distantly related to the Praxitelic Knidos Aphrodite and known through the Medici, Dresden-Capitoline, and Troad Aphrodite reworkings. Specifically, the type of statuary to which the Borghese replica belongs is that of the semi-draped Pudica, in which numerous types, variants and re-elaborations converge, explaining the difficulty of identifying a specific archetype, given the extreme popularity of the subject in the late Hellenistic and Imperial periods.

In this case, the type is characterised by the contrast between the soft shapes of the smooth, bare upper body and the chiaroscuro frame of the drape, thick with ripples and folds, recalling the late elaborations of the Rhodian Aphrodite (Delivorrias et alii 1984, pp. 82-83, nn. 736-741) and the Landolina or Callipyge Aphrodite of Syracuse (Giuliano 1953; Delivorrias et alii 1984, pp. 83, nos. 743-747; Schmidt 1997, p. 203, nos. 93-95), named after its discoverer, the archaeologist Saverio Landolina Nava (Catania 1743 – Syracuse 1814): an iconographic invention of late Hellenism, related to Hellenistic cult statues from the Syracusan sanctuary of Aphrodite Callipyge, recognised in an anecdote reported by Athenaeus (XII 554). The archetype is, although not unanimously, traced back to the micro-Asiatic environment of the first or second half of the second century BCE. 

The type was passed on in diverse copies and variations in the Roman era, such as the Venus currently in the Louvre (inv. MA 376, 379) formerly in the Borghese Collection, sold by Prince Camillo in 1807 (Petrucci, Fabréga-Dubert, Martinez 2011). Particularly popular for the decoration of fountains, gardens, and nymphaeum, this model was then used for statues of Nymphs with shells, like the Borghese examples displayed in the Portico (CLXX) and in Room VI (CIXC).

Jessica Clementi

  • L. Lamberti, E.Q. Visconti, Sculture del Palazzo Della Villa Borghese Detta Pinciana: Brevemente Descritte, I, Roma 1796, p. 6 n. 9.
  • Indicazione delle opere antiche di scultura esistenti nel primo piano della Villa Borghese, Roma 1840, p. 23, n. 13.
  • A. Nibby, Roma nell’anno 1838, Roma 1841, p. 923, n. 13.
  • Indicazione delle opere antiche di scultura esistenti nel primo piano della Villa Borghese, Roma 1854 (1873), p. 26, n. 13.
  • A. Venturi, Il Museo e la Galleria Borghese, Roma 1893, p. 44.
  • G. Giusti, La Galerie Borghèse et la Ville Humbert Premier à Rome, Roma 1904, p. 32.
  • W. Amelung, P. Arndt, G. Lippold, Photographische Einzel auf nahmen antiker Skulpturen, X, 1, München 1925, p. 16, n. 2765 (Lippold).
  • H. Riemann, Die Skulpturen vom 5. Jahrhundert bis in römische Zeit. Kerameikos, Bd. 2. Berlin 1940, p. 124, n. 2.
  • A. Giuliano, L’Afrodite Callipige di Siracusa, in “Archeologia Classica”, V, 1953, pp. 210-214.
  • P. Della Pergola, La Galleria Borghese in Roma, Roma 1954, p. 20. 
  • P. Moreno, Museo e Galleria Borghese, La collezione archeologica, Roma 1980, p. 19. 
  • P. Moreno, S. Staccioli, Le collezioni della Galleria Borghese, Milano 1981, p. 101, fig. a p. 88. 
  • Delivorrias et alii, s.v. Aphrodite, in “Lexicon Iconographicum Mythologiae Classicae”, II,1 Zürich München 1984, pp. 82-83, nn. 736-741; 743-747.
  • K. Kalveram, Die Antikensammlung des Kardinals Scipione Borghese, Worms am Rhein 1995, p. 185.
  • E. Schmidt, s.v. Venus, in “Lexicon Iconographicum Mythologiae Classicae”, VIII, 1 Zürich München 1997, p.203, nn. 93-95.
  • P. Moreno, C. Stefani, Galleria Borghese, Milano 2000, p. 177, n. 10.
  • P. Moreno, A. Viacava, I marmi antichi della Galleria Borghese. La collezione archeologica di Camillo e Francesco Borghese, Roma 2003, p. 241, n. 231.
  • I. Petrucci, M.L. Fabréga-Dubert, J.L. Martinez, Venere Marina, in I Borghese e l’Antico, Catalogo della mostra (Roma, Galleria Borghese, 7 dicembre 2011 – 9 aprile 2012), a cura di A. Coliva, Milano 2011, pp. 290-293, n.27.
  • Scheda di catalogo 12/01008510, P. Moreno 1975; aggiornamento G. Ciccarello 2021