Colossal seated statue of Cybele or a Muse?

Roman
Early Imperial Period
1st BC or 1st AD


Catalogue Raisonné

Sculpture in Stone (MFA), no. 092; Sculpture in Stone and Bronze (MFA), p. 109 (additional published references); Highlights: Classical Art (MFA), p. 041.

Dimensions

Overall: 188 x 104 x 124cm (74 x 40 15/16 x 48 13/16in.) Block (wooden timber base (8 5/8 x 7 3/4 )): 51.4 x 135.9 x 145.7 cm (20 1/4 x 53 1/2 x 57 3/8 in.) Block (Object sits on a concrete on top of wooden base): 126.4 x 86.4 x 62.9 cm (49 3/4 x 34 x 24 3/4 in.)

Accession Number

99.340

Medium or Technique

Marble, from Carrara in northwest Italy

Not On View

Collections

The Ancient World

Classifications

Sculpture

Cybele, the great mother of the gods, also known as Magna Mater, is represented in her customary seated pose in this colossal statue. Probably once enthroned in an elevated position within an Imperial-period temple, the work is said to have been found at Amiternum, in the mountains of central Italy. She was a chaste goddess, a protector of cities, and a bringer of good fortune. It has also been suggested that she might represent a seated Muse.

Assembled from several marble blocks, this statue was executed at the highest level of quality. The goddess-perched on a stool, armless throne, or altar that is partly preserved; perhaps, on her left side she once held a tambourine, the instrument connected with the frenzied music of her worship. A rich cascade of drapery flows across Cybele’s body, the emphatic folds of the fabric creating visual interest, while the semitransparent quality subtly reveals her anatomy-especially her belly, breasts, and knees.

Scientific Analysis:
Harvard Lab No. HI232: Isotope ratios - delta13C +2.11 / delta18O -1.83
Harvard Lab No. HI776: Isotope ratios - delta13C +2.44 / delta18O -2.36
Attribution - Carrara, Justification - Fine grained marble.

Provenance

Until 1834, at Amiternum (near present-day L’Aquila, Italy)[see note 1]; 1834, excavated at Amiternum by Sabatino del Muto [see note 2]. By 1840, in the courtyard of a house at San Vittorino [see note 3]. By 1898, acquired at Castellammare Adriatico by John Marshall (b. 1860- d. 1928) for Edward Perry Warren (b. 1860 – d. 1928), London; 1899, sold by Edward Perry Warren to MFA for $32,500.00 [see note 4]. (Accession date: December 24, 1899)

Notes

[1] In 1809, the colossal statue was seen in situ by Giuseppe Simelli (b. 1777- d. 1842). It was said to be located between the river Aterno and the Roman amphitheater at Amiternum: “Presso il fiume Aterno e stata cavata una statua colossal di donna sedente, marmo statuario, di bellissimo panneggiamento: manca della testa anche fin dalla prima origine si vede riportata, manca della spalla e del braccio sinistro, della meta del braccio destro e della punta dei piedi sporgenti in fuori del panneggiamento. La scultura e il disegno sono bellissimi…” (G. Simelli, Antichita Pelasgiche (Ms. In Biblioteca dell’istituto Nazionale di Storia dell’Arte), Rome, f. 17)

[2] For information on the 1834 excavations at Amiternum see S. Segenni, Amiternum e il suo territorio in eta romana (1985), 136-41; S. Segenni, Studi Classici e Orientali 52 (2006): 245-47.

[3] By 1840 it was stored in a courtyard of a house in San Vittorino, where it was described during a site inspection of the excavation’s finding by Prof. Angelo Solari (b. 1775- d. 1846), “...una statua colossale di donna, la quale alzandosi in piedi sarebbe di circa palmi 14: la medesima e mancante della testa, dei piedi, d’ambo le braccia, e porzioni della parte di dietro dal lato destro… quantunque sia cosi mutilata, pure avendola attentamente osservata, la trovo di un’ottima scultura greco-romana, la quale potrebbe rappresentare una Roma o Vesta…” (Archivio Soprintendenza di Napoli, XIX, B. 5, 3.45). An export permit for the removal of this statue from the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies may have been available by 1844. However, letters dating between 1841-44 do not make clear for which statue the permit was granted, since there seems to have been at least two colossal statues of seated women found at Amiternum (See A. Milanese, In partenza dal regno. Esportazioni e commercio d’arte e d’antichita a Napoli nella prima meta dell’Ottocento (Florence, 2014), pp. 126-28).

[4] This is the total price for MFA 99.338-99.542.

Credit Line

Henry Lillie Pierce Fund