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Statuette of a Kore Restored as Isis

Roman art

This small statue portrays a standing female figure placing her weight on her right leg while her left is bent and held off to the side. She is wearing a long tunic, called a chiton, that stops just above her feet and a large mantle, called a himation, that envelops her body and is draped over her right arm, which is bent and held outward. Her left arm is slightly bent and hangs down along her body and she holds a small pitcher called an oinochoe in her hand. The sculpture can be considered a second-century Roman copy of an archaising original by a neo-Attic artist.

When it was restored in 1828 by Antonio D’Este, the sculpture had already been reworked as Isis, with the addition of the lotus flower on her head and the pitcher.

Originally displayed on a column in the Salone, where it was seen by Iacomo Manilli in 1650 and Domenico Montelatici in 1700, it was reported to be in Room I by Antonio Nibby in 1838 and in its current location in Room 3 by Adolfo Venturi in 1893.

Object details

2nd century A.D.
white marble
height without plinth 106 cm; total height 112 cm

Borghese Collection, cited for the first time by Manilli, 1650 (p. 56). Inventario fidecommissario Borghese, 1833, C., p. 45, no. 58. Purchased by the Italian State, 1902.

Conservation and Diagnostic
  • XVIII secolo - Restauri nel plinto, nell’oinochoe, nel fiore di loto sulla testa e nell’avambraccio destro; interventi sulla veste e sul volto.
  • 1828 - Antonio D’Este


This small sculpture is mentioned at the Galleria Borghese by numerous sources: In 1650, Iacomo Manilli described it as the ‘Goddess Ceres’ and, in 1700, Domenico Montelatici gave it the title ‘Ceres with Poppies’, in both cases it was reported to be displayed on a column in the Salone (Manilli 1650, p. 56; Montelatici 1700, p. 195). In the inventory of 1762, it is described as the ‘Goddess of Silence, called Isis’. Reported in Room 1 by Antonio Nibby in 1838 (Nibby 1841, p. 914, no. 13), it was seen in Room 3, its current location, in 1893 by Adolfo Venturi (Venturi 1893, p. 30).

The statue, which is smaller than life size, portrays a draped female figure who places her weight on her right leg, while the left leg is slightly bent and positioned back and off the the side. She wears a tunic, called a chiton, and a mantle, called a himation. The tunic, which has a broad, round neckline, hangs down to the floor, revealing only her toes, while the ample drapery is wrapped around the figure’s body, following the movement of her legs, and is draped over her right arm, which is bent and held outward to hold an object, probably restored. There is a pleated band stretched across her chest from her left shoulder to where it ends in a puff below her right elbow, almost pressed against her hip. Her left arm is slightly bent, hanging down along her body, and she holds an oinochoe in her hand Her face has delicate features and is framed by two bands of hair that start from a middle part and fall in waves over her shoulders. She wears a diadem on her head decorated with a large lotus flower.

In 1828, the statue was in the studio of Antonio D’Este, as reported in the ‘Quinta Nota degli Oggetti Antichi provenienti dalla Villa Borghese’, where it is described as a ‘statuette of a priestess of Isis in a rigid style, sculpted in Pentelic marble and measuring about five palmi high’ (Moreno, Sforzini 1987, pp. 361–362). The restoration was primarily concentrated on the hair and face, while the attribution to the goddess Isis, with the addition of the lotus flower, dates to an earlier restoration.

In Greek art, the motif of the Mantelwulst, the oblique mantle, is normally closely associated with numerous images of korai, whereas in the Imperial Age it is found especially in personifications and portraits. In the case of the small Borghese sculpture, the Ionic chiton, rendered with densely packed rigid, heavy little folds, and the figure’s static pose indicate that it is a Roman copy, by a Neo-Attic sculptor and datable to the second century CE, of an original, archaising Kore. A similar handling of the clothing and the figure’s general rigidity is found in a statue of Ceres in the Glyptothek, Munich (Brunn 1873, p. 100, no. 79; Furtwängler 1903, pls. 26, 2). There is a more archaising, headless, variant in the collection of the Vatican Museum, although it is not on view (Kaschnitz-Weinberg 1937, p. 58, no. 103, pl. XXVII).

Giulia Ciccarello

  • I. Manilli, Villa Borghese fuori di Porta Pinciana, Roma 1650, p. 56.
  • D. Montelatici, Villa Borghese fuori di Porta Pinciana con l’ornamenti che si osservano nel di lei Palazzo, Roma 1700, p. 195.
  • Indicazione delle opere antiche di scultura esistenti nel primo piano della Villa Borghese, Roma 1840, p. 11, n. 13
  • A. Nibby, Roma nell’anno 1838, Roma 1841, p. 914, n. 13.
  • Indicazione delle opere antiche di scultura esistenti nel primo piano della Villa Borghese, Roma 1854 (1873), p. 13, n. 12.
  • H.Brunn, Beschreibung der Glyptothek König Ludwig’s I. zu, München 1873, p. 100, n. 79
  • A. Venturi, Il Museo e la Galleria Borghese, Roma 1893, p. 30.
  • A. Furtwängler, Ein Hundert Tafeln nach den Bildwerken der Kgl. Glypthothek zu München, München 1903.
  • G. Giusti, La Galerie Borghèse et la Ville Humbert Premier à Rome, Roma 1904, p. 25.
  • H. Bulle, Archaisierende griechische Rundplastik, in “Abhandlugen Bayerische Akademic” , 30, 2, 1918, p. 22.
  • G. Kaschnitz-Weinberg, Sculture del magazzino del Museo Vaticano, Città del Vaticano 1937.
  • P. Della Pergola, La Galleria Borghese in Roma, (3° Edizione) Roma 1954, p. 12.
  • Raissa Calza, Catalogo del Gabinetto fotografico Nazionale, Galleria Borghese, Collezione degli oggetti antichi, Roma 1957, p. 11, n. 80.
  • P. Moreno, Museo e Galleria Borghese, La collezione archeologica, Roma 1980, p.15
  • P. Moreno, S. Staccioli, Le collezioni della Galleria Borghese, Milano 1981, p. 100,fig. a p. 85.
  • 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. 361-362.
  • P. Moreno, Le sculture antiche nella stanza di apollo e Dafne, in Apollo e Dafne del Bernini nella Galleria Borghese, a cura di K. Herrmann Fiore, Milano 1997, pp.41-61, in particolare, pp. 45, 58, fig.4
  • P. Moreno, C. Stefani, Galleria Borghese, Milano 2000, p. 109, n. 6.
  • P. Moreno, A. Viacava, I marmi antichi della Galleria Borghese. La collezione archeologica di Camillo e Francesco Borghese, Roma 2003, pp. 190-191, n. 170.
  • Scheda di catalogo 12/00147897, P. Moreno 1976; aggiornamento G. Ciccarello 2020