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

Probably mid-3rd century AD

Luna marble

Height (excluding modern pedestal and base): 42cm
Height (bottom of base to pedestal): 29cm

Museum number: M973

Vermeule catalogue number: Vermeule 417help-vermeule-catalogue-number

Curatorial note

The head of a stern, elderly woman with high cheek bones, sunken cheeks, knitted brows, and a set jaw; the pupils are expressed in a glance to the right and upwards. The hair is arranged in a straight part either side of the centre above the forehead and is brought back from behind over the centre top in a criss-crossed net; in a style recalling coin portraits of the Empress Otacilia Severa (244-249 AD) and of Herennia Etruscilla (249-251 AD) in the first year of her reign.1

The bust is draped in a chiton pinned with three buttons on the right arm to the shoulder and a himation draped over the left shoulder and across the front. Below the edge of the bust where the chiton billows out from a girdle (?) fastening beneath the breast appears an inset palmette support on which is the Greek inscription to Φηλικτα [a dedication to Felicitas] recorded by Michaelis. The modern pedestal bears the inscription Julia Livia Augusta.

Compare, for ancient technique (although a younger subject), Greek and Roman Portraits, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1972, and medallions, nos. 76, 78.

1 Compare Delbrueck, Münzbildnisse, pls. 7, 8, 9.

Provenance help-art-provenance

Purchased by John Soane at the Joseph Nollekens' Sale, conducted by Christie's at Nollekens' premises in Mortimer Street, 4 July 1823. This bust was purchased from amongst a group of 22 marbles 'From the Lower Workshop', perhaps implying that Nollekens may have worked on them himself.

Literature

A. Michaelis, Ancient Marbles of Great Britain, trans. C.A.M. Fennell, Cambridge, 1882, p.475, no.15.
F. Poulsen, Greek and Roman Portraits in English Country Houses, trans. G.C.Richards, Oxford, 1923, p. 26.
Description of Sir John Soane's Museum, 1930, p. 84.


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