Tuesday, December 16, 2014


Sala Rotonda

About 1782 by Michelangelo Simonetti (1724/87) who was clearly inspired by the Pantheon

In the floor there is the extraordinary and impressive “Great color mosaic” of the beginning of the third century AD from the Baths of Otricoli in Umbria 80 km (50 miles) from Rome: struggles of Greeks against centaurs and sea and river gods
It is not totally original and it was completed at the time of installation in the room
In the external section “Black and white mosaic” from Otricoli and Sacrofano near Rome

In the center enormous “Monolithic basin” in red porphyry marble, maybe from the Domus Aurea. The circumference is 13 m (42.6 feet)


“Otricoli's Jupiter” end of the first century BC from an original of the fourth century BC
It was restored in 1783 with additions by Giovanni Pierantoni

“It had to be part of an acrolith that hypothetically could be attributed to the cult statue of Jupiter in the Capitolium of Otricoli. (...) The original would have been a model for the statue of the god in Rome, built after the fire that burned the Capitoline Hill in 83 BC” (Eleonora Ferrazza)

“Antinous” from Hadrian's Villa in Palestrina where now is the modern cemetery
It was restored by Giovanni Pierantoni
Here the gay lover of Emperor Hadrian, who died drowned in the Nile is represented as Osiris-Dionysus
On his head there was a crown on which a uraeus (snake) or a lotus flower was added, replaced, in the modern restoration, with a kind of pine cone

“Portrait of Faustina the Elder” about 140 AD, found in 1769 by the painter Gavin Hamilton in the Pantanello area near Hadrian's Villa at Tivoli
It is one of the best portraits of the wife of Antoninus Pius (138/161) deified after her death in 141 AD
It was restored by Giovanni Pierantoni who made the bust

“Statue of Ceres” or maybe Juno, beginning of the second century AD from the original maybe by a pupil of Phidias of 430 BC
It was exhibited in the Palace of the Chancellery and entered the Vatican Museums in 1782 when it was restored by Giovanni Pierantoni. The head is ancient but not relevant

“Bust of Hadrian” (117/138) maybe 140 AD, from Castel Sant'Angelo, which was his tomb. It is known from the middle of 1500s
The portrait appears to be somewhat idealized, and perhaps dates back to after his death. The bust is modern

“Colossal Hercules” in gilded bronze of the end of the first century or early second century AD from a Greek original of the fourth century BC found in 1864 under the courtyard of Palazzo Pio Righetti
It was donated to Pius IX Mastai-Ferretti (1846/78) and restored by Pietro Tenerani (1789/1869), who reinstated it in part using plaster and bronze
It was buried superstitiously because it had been struck by lightning at the Theatre of Pompey, to the decoration of which maybe it belonged, in the area of the nowadays Campo de' Fiori
It had been covered by a slab of travertine marble, on which there was an inscription with the letters F C S (Fulgur Conditum Summanium = buried because hit by lightning) and a sacrificed lamb had been buried with it

“Bust of Antinous” about 130/138 AD. It was found in 1790 at Hadrian's Villa in Tivoli
The peculiar hairstyle of this portrait has been put in connection with the servile origin of the youth

Statue of goddess called “Barberini Hera” mid-second century BC from an original of the fifth century BC by an artist of Phidias' circle
It was part of the Barberini collection and it entered the Vatican collections in 1772 when it was restored and integrated by Gaspare Sibilla (about 1723/82)
In the base there is a relief from a sarcophagus of a child of the late third century AD with an extraordinary “Representation of quadrigas’ races in the Circus Maximus”

“Herm of marine deity” maybe Okeanos 130/140 AD, from the area of Pozzuoli, where it was purchased in 1771
The eyebrows are formed by algae and in the beard there are dolphins that seem to swim

“Galba” (68) represented as Jupiter, believed to be Nerva (96/98)
Only the torso and head are old and they were integrated and processed by Bartolomeo Cavaceppi in 1776 to rework facial features mimicking those of a portrait of Galba, believing it was Nerva
The original statue, however, represented a seated figure, perhaps a deity or a Hellenistic ruler of the first century BC
In the base neo-Attic relief with the “Birth of Erichthonius and Hephaestus”
The myth of Erichthonius is quite complex: according to the account of Apollodorus of Athens, Athena went to the forge of Hephaestus to ask the forging of some weapons. Hephaestus pounced on her, trying to possess her and Athena, determined to save her virginity, fled
In the ensuing struggle, the seed of Hephaestus was scattered on the ground and where it fell, Gaea, Mother Earth, was fertilized, and begat Erichthonius. Athena, however, wanted to raise him in secret anyway

“Bust of Serapis” second century AD from an original of about 320 BC by Briaxis for the Serapeum of Alexandria
It was found in 1771 in the so-called Villa of Gallienus on the Appian Way by painter Gavin Hamilton and sold to the Vatican Museums
He has on the head the characteristic calathos, highly integrated modioi-shaped, a cylindrical container that served as a unit of measurement for grain
In the circlet on the head there are still holes where beams of metal were inserted which made it comparable to the god Helios/Sol as was typical of the operations of syncretism between religions that the Romans made

“Claudius in the act of libation during sacrificial rites” (41/54) depicted like Jupiter with the eagle and the civic crown of oak
It was found in 1865 in Lanuvio where maybe it decorated the theater
In the base there is a rather ruined votive relief with “Hermes, Asclepius, and the Three Graces” mythical projections of Joy, Beauty and Grace
Maybe it comes from the Tiber River, possibly from the Tiber Island where the sanctuary of the god of medicine was
The caduceus of Hermes, a stick with two snakes, which served to guide the souls and is currently symbol of trade was mistakenly confused with the rod of Asclepius, which had only a snake, so that often in the United States is used as a symbol of medicine and in Italy it is also the symbol of pharmacists
The precise meaning of the caduceus remains mysterious

“Portrait of Claudius” which had to be part of an imperial statue seated on a throne representing, however, Caligula (37/41), the nephew of Claudius
Caligula, after being killed, had the damnatio memoriae, the elimination of all images and memories for posterity of the declared enemies of the people of Rome and of the Senate after their death
It can be noticed the double bangs and small size of the face compared to the neck, consequences of the rework of the portrait
It was found in the so-called Basilica of Otricoli in 1779 and restored by Gaspare Sibilla (about 1723/82)

“Juno Sospita” first half of the second century AD venerated in Lanuvium, maybe statue of the temple dedicated to the goddess in the Forum Holitorium, corresponding to S. Nicola in Carcere
It was exhibited in the courtyard of the Palazzo Mattei di Paganica, it was acquired by the Vatican Museums in 1782 and it was restored by Giovanni Pierantoni

“Portrait of Plotina” about 129 from Villa Mattei or Celimontana, wife of Trajan deified by Hadrian in that year
The portrait is on modern bust and was sold to the Vatican Museums in 1770 when it was restored by Giovanni Pierantoni and Gaspare Sibilla

“Bust of a Severan princess” about 210/230 AD maybe Julia Mesa, Julia Domna's sister, the Syrian wife of Septimius Severus (193/211) or her daughter Julia Soemnia mother of Elagabalus (218/222)
The hairstyle, however, identifies her with certainty as a woman belonging to the Severan dynasty
It was found in 1780 in the Quadraro area between Via Appia and Via Tuscolana
The bust is modern and the hair has been restored

Maybe “Genius of Augustus sacrificing” perhaps from Pozzuoli
The vague resemblance to Augustus led to the identification with the Genius Augusti a sort of personal deity of the first emperor of Rome

“Portrait maybe of Plautianus” praetorian prefect put to death by Septimius Severus (193/211) on the advice of his son Caracalla in 205 who had married his daughter Plautilla, later divorced

Monday, December 15, 2014


Sala delle Muse 


1782 by Michelangelo Simonetti (1724/87) who also used sixteen columns of marble from Carrara
In the vault frescoes and paintings “Scenes and characters of Greek mythology” 1782/86 by Tommaso Maria Conca (1734/1822) who was a pupil of his uncle, the great Sebastiano Conca

Most of the sculptures here come from the excavations carried out in the years 1773/79 in the so-called Villa of Cassius in Pianelle of Carciano at Tivoli except Euterpe Muse of lyric and Urania muse of astronomy that are modern


On the right wall “Relief with Pyrrhic dance” Roman art of the late-Republican period, based on an Attic relief of the fourth century BC
The Pyrrhic dance was probably of Cretan origin. During the performance each soldier would hit with his sword the shield of the soldier next to him

On the left wall “Relief with the birth of Dionysus” early second century AD from an Athenian original of the second half of the fourth century BC
Dionysus was born from the thigh of Zeus. Hermes welcomes him with a panther skin to give him to the nymph Nysa who will raise him in the mountains

“Sophocles” from an original of the fourth century BC

“Statue of Silenus” with a bunch of grapes and all the appearance of being drunk
The head is of the first century AD, the body of the second century AD, but both are derived from a model maybe of the circle of Lysippus of the early Hellenistic period with the Silenus accompanied by a panther


“Belvedere Torso” first century BC signed by Apollonios the son of Nestor, an Athenian belonging to the followers of the neo-Attic style

It influenced Michelangelo's and others' (Auguste Rodin) sculpture, so much that Michelangelo proclaimed himself “student of the Torso” and was inspired by his “master” for the “Nudes” in the Sistine Chapel. It was an object of worship by the Renaissance artists

It maybe represents Hercules or, according to recent German studies, Ajax contemplating suicide
It was found before 1432, perhaps on the Quirinal Hill, but the exact date and place are unknown. Not even the date of its entry in the Vatican collection is certain

Around the walls “Nine Muses and Apollo Musagete” second century AD
The word musagete means leader of the muses

“The series of discoveries in Tivoli, plus the muses from Villa Adriana and the Villa of the Quintili, suggest the creation of a series of sculptures that influenced the decorative choices of rich residences of the mid-imperial period, located in Latium region. Hadrian has been considered as the client, who would have entrusted artists educated in the Greek tradition, able to standardize already well known iconography - not exclusively related to muses - and borrowed from different stylistic currents” (Eleonora Ferrazza)

Herms of poets and philosophers, including:

“Herm of Plato” from original by Silanion
The broad forehead that earned him the nickname Plato is here covered by a thick bangs

“Head of Euripides” first half of the second century AD

“Homer's Head” end of first or early second century AD from original of the mid-fifth century AD. It was however a portrait of reconstruction not contemporary of Homer


“Herm of Aspasia” from an original of the fifth century BC

“Herm of Pericles” from an original of the fifth century BC by Kresilas

“It wasn't a portrait statue, inconceivable at the time, but of an ideal image, exemplary embodiment of a political ideology that would be democratic and egalitarian. Ethical values still take precedence over individual characterization” (Marina Castoldi)

“Statue of seated woman, so-called Sappho” maybe representing, in fact, a deceased woman with not pertinent head of the Augustan period

“Herm of Periander” from an original of the fourth century BC

“Herm of Bias” copy of the second century AD from an original of the fourth century BC
Bias of Priene was an orator and poet who lived in the sixth century BC, mentioned by Plato in the list of the seven wise men
The Greek inscription on the herm was his motto: men for the most part are bad

The body is inspired by an iconography which is often found in the representations of emperors, while the name of the character represented in the not pertinent head, even though it is known from other copies, has not been identified with certainty

Wednesday, December 3, 2014


Gabinetto delle Maschere

It was built using ancient materials for Pius VI Braschi (1775/99) of whom there is a bust just outside the front door

At the center of the vault “Marriage of Bacchus and Ariadne” surrounded by “Diana and Endymion, Venus and Adonis, Paris denying Minerva the apple and Paris offering the apple to Venus” 1791/92 by Domenico De Angelis (1735/1804) who also painted the vaults in three rooms of the Borghese Museum

“The style of Domenico De Angelis, influenced by the Carracci remains bound - without its violence - that of his master, Marco Benefial, and passes progressively from a neoclassical to a romantic spirit” (Olivier Michel - Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani Treccani)

In the floor “Four small colorful mosaics” from Hadrian's Villa in Tivoli, three with scenic masks, about 60/50 BC, and one with a rural landscape, about 30/20 BC, made with the incredible technique known as opus vermiculatum. These four mosaics decorated an older villa and were reused in the so-called Imperial Palace in Hadrian’s Villa more than 150 years later

From the right:
“Sabina, wife of Hadrian in the guise of Venus Victrix with apple in hand” beautiful restored sculpture, the original copy of the famous Greek sculptor Arcesilaus
The extremely sexy wet nude-look contrasts with the expression of melancholy and frigidity that Sabina has in all her portraits

Perhaps she could not help but show her disappointment of her relationship with her husband, the emperor Hadrian (117/138) who desperately loved the Turkish boy Antinous and was probably even indifferent to the seemingly, at least in this statue, irresistible beauty of his wife

“Aphrodite Bathing” small copy of the squatting Venus of Doidalsas

“Draped Dancer or Bacchant” in Pentelic marble with an ivy wreath on the “Tombstone of Cecilia Magna”
This dancer was one of the favorite statues of the father of neoclassicism Johann Joachim Winckelmann (1717/78)

“Aphrodite of Cnidus” one of the best copies from the original by Praxiteles (about 395/326 BC) of the fourth century BC

  “The right hand is brought forward to cover the groin, in a gesture of apparent modesty, which makes it feel seduction even better, tied to a moment. To attract the attention are the soft passages between the levels, the absence of sudden movements and the gloss surface of Pentelic marble. The same principles of delicacy, suppleness of the shape, shine and softness of the levels, always reappear as fundamental features of the art of Praxiteles, so that he became famous as the artist who, more than any other, expressed in his works the charis, grace” (Giorgio Bejor)

“The Three Graces” mythic projections of Joy, Beauty and Grace from a Hellenistic original

Beautiful “Square Cup” in “rosso antico” marble (quarries are near Matapan Cape in Greece)
Famous “Dung Chair” in “rosso antico” marble the original use of which has been much debated by scholars
It was probably used as a toilet in antiquity by members of the imperial families or by the emperors themselves, since porphyry was associated exclusively to them
This chair, along with a similar one, was used by the popes as the throne during the ceremony of taking possession of the cattedra (throne) in the Basilica of St. John Lateran
The chair was popularly associated with the legendary female Pope Joan who would reign in the year 853/855. Legend has it that, to avoid a repeat of the election of a woman, each new pope was subjected to a thorough examination while sitting on this chair to make sure it was not a woman disguised
According to Cesare D'Onofrio however the use of the dung chair was exclusively religious: the birthing chair would have symbolized the mother Church who gives eternal life to his children
Beautiful “Statue of Drunken Satyr” in “rosso antico” marble with eyes still glazed. It was found in Hadrian's Villa at Tivoli
On the right there is access to the LOGGIA SCOPERTA (open loggia) which connects the Cabinet of the Masks with the Small Room IV of the busts