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Female head, an imitation of a Roman head of a girl set on a genuine antique bust and separate antique base.

Probably 18th century

Variegated Italian marble

Height (excluding pedestal): 42cm
Length (face): 11cm
Height (base): 31cm
Width (bottom of base): 24.5cm, maximum
Length (bottom of base): 24.5cm
Height: 52cm, maximum

Museum number: M969

Vermeule catalogue number: Vermeule 416help-vermeule-catalogue-number

Curatorial note

The head of a young girl with reticulated headdress, the hair tied in a large knot at the back. It is set on a female bust, the drapery of which consists of a chiton pinned at the shoulder beneath a himation thrown over the left shoulder and brought around the right and across to a knot on the left breast. The antique continuation of the pedestal-support is cut out at the back of the bust.

For the bust type, compare the bust of Faustina II in Paris1 or that of the same Empress in the Museo Capitolino, Rome2.

Several portraits in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston from old collections in Rome are Graeco-Roman, first or second century AD, prototypes for this form of Neoclassical creation, one admired in Sir John Soane's time. For example, compare this bust with the Julio-Claudian girl acquired through Professor Rudolfo Lanciani in 1888 (Boston MFA accession no.88.642), a portrait-head stated to have been found in Rome and representing someone connected with the imperial family3.

For the Neoclassical reworkings of similar surviving fragments see Heim, London, Paintings and Sculptures 1770-1830, Autumn Exhibition, 1972, nos. 25 (Vestal by the brothers Collino) and 32 (Flora by Carlo Albacini, "whose work consisted in the restoration and copying of antiquities", this statue being a copy of the "Flora" in the Museo Capitolino, Rome).

1 Wegner, Herrscherbildnisse, pl. 36.
2 Loc. cit., pl. 34.
3 M.F.A. Bulletin, 70, 1972, pp. 22, 30-31, no. 9, with two illustrations.

Provenance help-art-provenance

The ensemble, head, bust, pedestal and base, was purchased by John Soane at the Joseph Nollekens' Sale, conducted by Christie's at Nollekens' premises in Mortimer Street,, 4 July 1823, Lot 92, An antique Portrait, and a small Marble Pedestal, with marine devices and cornucopiae, £14.14s.0. It is interesting to note that Lot 92 was amongst a group of 22 marbles 'From the Lower Workshop', perhaps implying that Nollekens may have worked on them himself.

Literature

Michaelis, p.475, no.13.
F. Poulsen, Greek and Roman Portraits in English Country Houses, trans. G.C.Richards, Oxford, 1923, 1923, p.26, no. 16.


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