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A fragment of a Roman statue: a colossal male right hand holding a rolled scroll

Roman Empire

Greek island marble, Parian type

Length (including scroll): 44cm, maximum
Length (longest finger): 20cm

Museum number: M375

Vermeule catalogue number: Vermeule 394help-vermeule-catalogue-number

Curatorial note

Although rarely found as an attribute held in the hands of major divinities [compare Asklepios, Soane number M603/Vermeule 380], a scroll held in the right hand in this manner suggests that this fragment comes from a colossal statue of a togate official of the later Republic or, perhaps more likely from the scale, the Roman Empire.

A similar hand, holding a rotulus, is in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (accession no. 72.733) and was acquired by C. Granville Way in Egypt around the middle of the nineteenth century because of its high quality and excellent condition. Indeed, carving of this hand from a civic statue often matched or exceeded the portrait head itself for sensitivity and expressiveness1.

Salvatore Aurigemma wrote in his 1958 Guide to the Baths of Diocletian and the Museo Nazionale Romano that the statue of Augustus from the Via Labicana on the way from the Roman Forum to the Lateran might have had the head and body exchanged at some time in Antiquity. Heads and hands are so superior to the togate body that the latter may have been substituted when the original figure was damaged. This would provide further evidence of the great care which sculptors showed for these parts of their marble statues2; unfortunately both hands are missing, although the right forearm survives.

1 See Museum of Fine Arts, Sculpture in Stone, Boston, 1976, nos. 224-225 and further references.
2 See Aurigemma, 3rd Edition, Rome, 1955, pp. 122-123, pl. LXV.

Provenance help-art-provenance

Unrecorded.


If you have any further information about this object, please contact us: worksofart@soane.org.uk