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Upper section of the torso of a statue of the Aphrodite of Aphrodisias

Grey Greek marble

Height: 29cm
Width: 34cm

Museum number: M430

Vermeule catalogue number: Vermeule 378help-vermeule-catalogue-number

Curatorial note

This fragment comprises the headless shoulders and body to and including the upper right corner of the first carved scenic panel (containing busts of Helios and Selene; see below) and the left arm to the joint between elbow and forearm (where the arm and hand were attached, probably in black marble similarly to the resent restoration of the Soane Artemis Ephesia; above no. M613). Traces of the veil-mantle remain at the neck, and the whole garment falls in regular, heavy folds over the shoulders and vertically down the back. The triple strand necklace and scallop-bordered chiton-front fill the area above the line of the first panel, and in the centre is the palmette and crescent between the breasts.

From the appearance of the workmanship and details in this abraded fragment, it is an early second century AD replica of the Aphrodite of Aphrodisias - a type going back to the Hellenistic cult statue of the temple in that city, in Caria, Greek Asia Minor and seen both separately and in its temple on Greek Imperial coins from Augustus to Gallienus. A study of the types surviving in restored statues or fragments was made by C. Fredrich in Ath. Mitt., XXII, 1897 ('Die Aphrodite von Aphrodisias in Karien', pp.361-380, pls. XI, XII); he numbered the known replicas or representations by the letters A-P. In Rendiconti, XII, 1936 ('Intorno a Due Frammenti Vaticani di Afrodite di Afrodisia e di Artemidi di Efeso', pp.221-231) Filippo Magi added a statuette in Bologna (Q) and through Dr. G. Lippold two fragments in the University of Erlangen collection (R.S.). Failing further information this Soane fragment, which belongs to the rarer groups of nearly half lifesize statuettes, may be numbered T and compared in this respect to the statuette in Vienna (N). By the same system a fragmentary torso in the Museu Arquedogico, Beja, and discovered at Beringel (Portugal), can be lettered U and related to J, F, Q, and D in the Fredrich-Magi lists (A. Garcia y Bellido, Esculturas Romanas, p.150, no.160, pl.121, listed as an Artemis Ephesia.). Like the kindred and long confused types of the Artemis of Ephesos, a number of these figures preserve only their archaic-style trunk or are heavily restored. Like the Bologna statue this Soane torso probably had, as mentioned in the description, separate hands, perhaps of black marble inserted where the one joint is visible. There are a number of minor variations from the hand of the later copyists in the composition and number of relief panels on the front of the trunk; these are considerably less, however, than the modifications of the Ephesian Artemis, and the part which the Soane fragment preserves usually remains with only the slightest alterations according to the size and style of the copy. The start of the first rectangular panel is barely visible at the right of the torso, near the joint in the sleeve. We can reconstruct these panels as having contained in descending order: the busts of Helios and Selene alluded to above, the 'Three Graces' or more technically 'Charities' in orthodox schema and placed between cornucopiae, the union of the elements of the sea-borne origins of Aphrodite symbolised by her figure on a sea beast, and three Erotes in schema echoing the Charities, with doves possibility enriching the base (as on the Terme-Kircheriano statuette, which Cornelius Vermeule examined in detail through the kindness of Dr. E. Paribeni when compiling this catalogue entry). The original statue, probably larger than any replica which is preserved, is reconstructed by Fredrich from the evidence of uncontaminated reproductions (op.cit., p.371; Magi, op.cit., p.227, n.12) as having displayed in its zones: Aphrodite akpáia between Zeus and Hera, in the second the Charities between Helios and Selene, in the third Aphrodite πελαγια with triton and dolphin, and the Erotes above the lower drapery. There were probably well known modifications, or to be specific on the basis of Dr. Magi's evidence (p.370f.) at least one major modification, in later Hellenistic times, but the provenances of the Imperial variations: Athens, Ostia, Rome, Ariccia, Parma, and elsewhere in Italy and even as far west as Portugal, indicate a fresh impetus to the cult under the stimulation of importation through the heart of the Empire. The number of copies, like the Soane fragment, dated to the earlier Second Century (e.g. R and probably S; Magi, (Lippold), p.225, note 9) point to the vogue for semi-Oriental Greek cults in the Western Empire from this time - a fact which has contributed not only to our knowledge of the Carian Aphrodite, but also to the Ephesian Artemis and the Heliopolitan Zeus (for the Aphrodite recently discussed, and bibliography, see L. Lacroix, Les Reproductions de Statues sur les Monnaies Grecques, pp.167ff., especially p.173f. note 2). The presence of at least three such statues from unidentified sources and a well known sale (Soane's Ephesian Diana M613) in a small collection such as this can best be explained by Soane's flare for acquiring the different, the bizarre, or perhaps even the romantically mysterious in his purchase of antiquities.

That the Ephesian Diana, and often quite by accident the Aphrodite of Aphrodisias, was regarded the bizarre antiquity par excellence in the pre-Neoclassical period has been observed in the forms in which the Soane (M613) and related statues appeared and reappeared in treatises on classical archaeology. The Aphrodite of Aphrodisias was hardly differentiated from her more numerous counterpart and often lends her singularly individual sculptured zones to the archaeological caprices of the Neoclassical and earlier periods. For instance, an adaptation of the Aphrodite of Aphrodisias appears on the dedication page of Piranesi's Divers Manners of Ornamenting Chimneys between two Ephesian Dianae on the left of the tablet; the pendant figures at the right may all be termed of the Ephesian Diana type.

The fragment has been classified by F. Eichler, JOAI, XLII, 1955, Beiblatt, cols. 14-15, no.V.

New perspective on the types of the Aphrodite of Aphrodisias was provided, in the decade after Eichler's article, by the discovery of a colossal marble copy of the cult-image at Aphrodisias itself, close to the temple. See M.J. Mellink, in AJA, 67, 1963, p.185, pl.40, fig.17: after K.T.Erim's report, 'Immediately outside the periboles, lodged in the foundations of a Byzantine wall . . . .'. This statue could have been substituted for the more-costly cult-image in the Roman imperial period, or it could have been one of the many examples of multiple dedications so popular in the Greek cities of the Roman Empire.

Lit.: R. Fleischer, Artemis von Ephesos und verwandte Kultstatuen aus Anatolien und Syrien (1973) 149, A 13, pl. 68a.
R. Fleischer, LIMC, vol 2 (1984) no. 22
P. Noelke, AA 98 (1983) p. 119, no. 19
M. F. Squarciapino, Bd'A 44 (1959) p.101
M. F. Squarciapino, ActaIRN 4 (1968) p. 6

Provenance help-art-provenance

Unrecorded


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