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Fragment of the cuirassed torso of a Roman Imperial statue

Later first century AD

Fine-grained Pentelic marble

Height: 35cm, approximately
Width: 30cm, approximately

Museum number: M1429

Vermeule catalogue number: Vermeule 383help-vermeule-catalogue-number

On display: Drawing Office - also known as the Students Room (pre-booked tours only)
All spaces are in No. 13 Lincoln's Inn Fields unless identified as in No. 12, Soane's first house. For tours https://www.soane.org/your-visit

Curatorial note

This is a section of the right side from the middle of the chest between breast and hip bone of a cuirassed torso of a Roman Imperial male divinity or personage. A winged Griffin with lion feet stands to the right, on the upper part of a scroll tendril, looking back, with left forepaw on a similar branch. At the right, at the break, the head and chest of the pendant beast are visible beyond the top of the central palmette.

This fragment is of excellent workmanship, probably of the late first century AD.

While any number of Imperial cuirassed statues and torsi show variations on this carved or chased enrichment, it is not without significance for the popularity of the type to note its use in a copy of what may well be the prototype for the group in Imperial art. The cuirass of the Mars Ultor statue of the Furtwängler-Pollak type in the Museo Capitolino, Rome, has griffins standing right and left on a palmette and arranged heraldically with heads turned back either side of a candelabrum ornament, all nearly identical with this torso fragment1. Hekler considered the cuirass of the Capitoline Mars Ultor a mid-point between Hellenistic and Roman cuirass decoration and treated the Augustan prototype as one of several important cuirassed statues which gave birth in imitation to the several main imperatorial cuirass groupings2.

See C. Vermeule, 'Hellenistic and Roman Cuirassed Statues' in Berytus XIII, 1959, p.40, no.53, pl.VI, fig.21: here Vermeule placed this fragment among statues and fragments of the 'Later Julio-Claudian Period, c.AD 50-75', in a miscellaneous grouping mostly from Rome and Italian suburban towns.

1 Strong, SR, pl.XLIXa; Jones, Cap., p. 39f., no. 40 pl. 7 and cuirass bibliography.
2 JOAI, XIX-XX, 1919, pp. 190ff.

Provenance help-art-provenance

Rome; probably collected in Rome by Charles Heathcote Tatham for the architect Henry Holland during the 1790s. See Cornelius Vermeule, unpublished Catalogue of the Antiquities at Sir John Soane's Museum, Introduction.


Tatham: Drawings, 6.

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