Villa of the Papyri

Danzatrici
Dancers, Hydrophorai (water carriers) or Danaids
Danzatrici

Dancers, Hydrophorai (water carriers) or Danaids

The five bronze statues are part of the statuary of Villa of the Papyri, a luxury villa on the outskirts of Herculaneum (Ercolano), where they were found in 1754.
The group represents five young women standing on the right legs while the left ones are slightly bent and moved away from the bodies. They are dressed in Doric peplos buckled on the shoulders and portrayed in different postures and with different hairstyles.

The faces are delicate and animated by the eyes, the corneas of which are made of bone or ivory and the irises and pupils of grey or black stone. Defined erroneously as “dancers” by Winckelmann in the 18th century, the statues were recognized as hydrophorai (water carriers) at the end of the 19th century and finally in the 20th century they were identified as the Danaids, the fifty daughters of Danaus the king of Egypt, condemned to fetch water for eternity after killing their respective husbands who were nothing but their cousins the girls did not want to marry.

They are reproductions related to the Augustan Age (third century BC – last quarter of the first century BC), derived from an original subject of the Classical Age, very popular in the Augustan Age, and reproductions of a similar group which was on exhibition in the temple of Apollo Palatine in Rome in 28 BC.

Corridore - 5626
Runners or wrestlers
Slide thumbnail
Slide thumbnail

Runners or wrestlers

The two twin bronze statues are part of the statuary of Villa of the Papyri, a luxury villa on the outskirts of the ancient Herculaneum (Ercolano), where they were found in 1754.
The work portrays two nude young athletes on an irregular base in a similar and specular posture, completely similar in the facial features.
The statue shows the athlete with the left leg bent forward and the sole of the foot resting on the ground, while the right leg is set back with the heel raised; the trunk is leant forward; the right arm is bent, while the left one is lowered; the head is slightly turned towards the shoulders; the hair, with short tufts ruffled on the forehead, is arranged in two opposite pincers-shaped locks, the eyes are made of different materials (eyeballs of bone or ivory, irises and pupils of grey and black stone) and then inserted.
They are probably copies of Greek statues of the late fourth century or the early third century BC, celebrating a victorious athlete in one of the major Pan-hellenic games; they can be referred to the Augustan Age according to the context and a stylistic analysis.

I Cerbiatti
Fawns
I Cerbiatti

Fawns

The two twin bronze statues are part of the statuary of Villa of the Papyri, a luxury villa on the outskirts of the ancient Herculaneum (Ercolano), where they were found in 1754.
The work shows two fawns in a similar and specular posture, completely similar in anatomy, they can be included among the Dionysian subjects commonly present in the garden areas. The slim and agile animals are portrayed in a naturalistic way, life-sized, holding up their heads and turning their muzzles respectively to the left and to the right.
The statues were found near the natation of the large peristilium (four-sided colonnade with a central garden) respectively on April 30th (n.4886) and on May 10th 1756 (n, 4888), together with another copy in fragments now lost. Preserved at the Museum of Herculaneum, inside Villa Reale of Portici, they were transported by Ferdinand to Naples in the “Real Museo Borbonico” in the early of nineteenth century.

Hermes in riposo
Hermes at rest
Hermes in riposo

Hermes at rest

The bronze statue that portrays the god Hermes seated on a rock is part of the statuary of Villa of the Papyri, a luxury villa on the outskirts of the ancient Herculaneum (Ercolano), where it was found in 1758.
The position and the style are inspired by the Greek sculptor Lysippus, but the work is almost certainly an original creation of a Roman sculptor. The head, adorned with short ruffled tufts of hair, is slightly bent towards the left; the right arm rests on the corresponding thigh while the leg is bent; the left hand rests on the rock causing the raising of the shoulder, so that the body of the god results to be slightly inclined towards the right; the left leg is stretched out and only the heel touches the ground. The eyes are made of different materials (eyeballs of bone and ivory, irises and pupils of grey and black stone) and then inserted.
The statue decorated the rectangular peristyle of the villa, made in imitation of a Greek gymnasium, usually populated by the images of the god.

Satiro dormiente
Sleeping Satyr
Satiro dormiente

Sleeping Satyr

The bronze statue, which portrays a sleeping Satyr with little horns among his shaggy hair, adorned the western side of the natation (swimming pool) in the middle of the large peristilium (four-sided colonnade with a central garden) of Villa of the Papyri, a luxury villa on the outskirts of the ancient Herculaneum (Ercolano), where it was found in 1752.

The head, softly abandoned in the sleep and turned towards the left shoulder, transmits a sense of relaxation: the eyelids are closed and the lips slightly opened. The right arm is bent in such a way as to hold up the head, while the left arm wanting in energy rests along the body. Even the position of the legs, of which one is stretched and the other bent, contribute to infuse a sense of relaxation. The upright position of the trunk, which partially clashes with the posture of the statue, has been interpreted as the result of an incorrect restoration or the evidence of a support placed behind the Satyr’s back that was not found during the excavations.

Satiro ebbro
Satiro ebbro

Drunken Satyr

The bronze statue, which portrays a drunken elderly Satyr, lying on a rock covered with a lionskin, adorned the western side of the natation (swimming pool) in the middle of the large peristilium (four-sided colonnade with a central garden) of Villa of the Papyri, a luxury villa on the outskirts of the ancient Herculaneum (Ercolano), where it was found in 1754.

The mature and fat body gives magnificence to the composition and the sculptural strength of this old Satyr shown in all his vitality prey to the wine fumes.
For some scholars the Hellenistic original, by which the Roman copy was probably inspired, might be a work of Lysippus tradition that can be dated to the first quarter of the third century BC, while other scholars, according to the comparison with several reproductions, are inclined to think that the original was created in Asia Minor following the rococo style of the late-Hellenistic period (third quarter of the second century BC).

satiro e capra
satiro-e-capra

Pan and the goat

The marble sculpture, which depicts the god Pan in the act of coupling with a goat,
adorned the natation (swimming pool) in the middle of the large peristilium (four-sided colonnade with a central garden) of Villa of the Papyri, a luxury villa on the outskirts of the ancient Herculaneum (Ercolano), where it was found in 1752.

The figure of Pan is accurately reproduced in the details of the goat fleece of the lower part of the body, in the smooth surface of the human muscular trunk and in the marked facial features that display the hybrid nature of the god.
The subject is perfectly suited to the decoration of a garden, which in Roman villas reproduced a vision of nature full of idyllic-pastoral connotations that derived from Hellenistic art and literature. Despite the gentle harmony of the piece, however, the nature of the subject, that was considered scandalous by Bourbon society, made it probably the most strongly censored work among the various objects of the collection: only the king was permitted to see it before it was locked in a cabinet and hidden even from the eyes of Winckelman.

Atena combattente
Athena promachos (Athena fighting)
Atena combattente

Athena promachos (Athena fighting)

The statue, which portrays the goddess Athena solemn stepping, was found in all probability in its original placement, in the central intercolumniation of the tablinum of Villa of the Papyri, a luxury villa on the outskirts of the ancient Herculaneum (Ercolano), where it was found in 1752.
The head, turned towards the stretched arm, is protected by an Attic helmet decorated in relief with griffins on the sides and the head of Gorgon (a monster with a snakelike-haired head, beheaded by Perseus) on the peak.

In ancient times the statue was probably dressed in gold robes in such a way to imitate, through the contrast with the marble-white of the arms, face and feet, the chryselephantine sculptures (made of gold and ivory) popular in the Greek world.

The work was differently interpreted either as a copy of a Greek statue of the fifth century BC or as a Roman reproduction of the first imperial period, but it is more likely that it is a late-Hellenistic creation; in this sense it can be dated between the third and the last quarter of the first century BC according to the context and a stylistic analysis.

Giovinetto orante
A young boy praying
Giovinetto orante

A young boy praying

The statue, which portrays a standing nude young boy, had been temporarily placed in the room where it was found on March 27th 1751, inside Villa of the Papyri, during the restoration works after the earthquake of 62 AD.
It is unfortunately impossible to reconstruct the original placement, even if the posture of a person praying would suggest a niche in the garden or in one of the rooms of the luxury villa located on the outskirts of the ancient Herculaneum (Ercolano).

The portrait head, carved separately and then attached to the trunk, shows a face with delicate features adorned with a simple hairstyle consisting of short and thin locks falling down over the forehead. The work is mediocre from the stylistic point of view, especially in the execution of the portrait head which could represent one of the owner’s sons.

Isocrate
Isocrates
Isocrate

Isocrates

The marble statue, which portrays an elderly man in a size just larger than the real one, is part of the statuary of Villa of the Papyri, a luxury villa located on the outskirts of the ancient Herculaneum (Ercolano), where it was found in 1752.

The advanced age of the figure is marked by the posture of the body that is slightly crooked and by the fact that he is leaning on a stick, even if the present posture is due to an incorrect restoration. The statue, which was found headless, was integrated with a head of the type “Homer-Sophocles, copied from a statue of the Farnese collection.

On the left side of the figure there are scrolls of papyrus, that serve as a support and at the same time represent the art of oratory which the character portrayed was linked to. The lack of the original head did not help with the recognition of the character, but the presence of the scrolls tied with a strap, together with the aspect of an elderly but vigorous man and the quiet attitude of a rhetorician, suggest to identify the figure with the orator Isocrates (born in Athens in 436 BC), celebrated by the ancients for his physical and mental strength that accompanied him throughout his life.

Pseudo Seneca (Aristofane?)
Pseudo-Seneca (Aristophanes?)
Pseudo Seneca (Aristofane?)

Pseudo-Seneca (Aristophanes?)

The marble statue, which portrays a mature man, in a size just larger than the real one, is part of the statuary of Villa of the Papyri, a luxury villa located on the outskirts of the ancient Herculaneum (Ercolano), where it was found in 1754.

The features of the face wearing a moustache and a short neglected beard are marked by wrinkles and bags under the penetrating eyes animated by the cornea made of bone or ivory and by irises and pupils made of grey and black stone, while the smooth hair fall down with ruffled locks on the forehead almost to the root of the nose. .
Fulvio Orsini suggested that the head was a portrait of Seneca, which was generally accepted until 1813, when the discovery of an authentic portrait of the philosopher, identified by means of the inscription of his name, disproved the idea, giving way to various hypotheses. Nowadays the prevailing interpretation is that the head is a portrait of a dramatist, probably Aristophanes, for the presence, on a copy now at the Museo delle Terme in Rome, of an ivy wreath, the prize for theatrical contexts.

Dioniso
Dionysus?
Dioniso

Dionysus?

The bust, which was initially identified as the portrait of Plato, probably represents Dionysus (polymorphous deity of Greek and Latin Olympus, Zeus and Semèle’s son, the inventor of wine) with his head bent on his chest and turned to the right.

His hairstyle is worked with a stylised treatment of the surfaces: on his forehead a high taenia holds in place his thick hair which rolls down on both sides of his head and falls to the nape, while the flowing beard ends below his neck in tight curls. The god, who has a large straight nose and high cheekbones, gazes downwards with a thoughtful expression. There are slight traces of folds in the central part of his tunic. The bust was discovered in an outlying room of Villa of the Papyri at Herculaneum, but it probably decorated the peristilium, (four-sided colonnade with a central garden).

Tolomeo
Ptolemy
Tolomeo

Ptolemy

The bust was discovered on February 8th 1757 in the western side of the natation (swimming pool) in the large peristilium (four-sided colonnade with a central garden) of Villa of the Papyri, a luxury villa on the outskirts of the ancient Herculaneum (Ercolano).
The bust portrays a Hellenistic middle-aged king, with his head slightly turned to the left, a royal taenia (band), running through his hair, tied at the nape, his forehead marked by a deep horizontal wrinkle, a slightly curved nose, full lips and a protruding chin. The identification of the figure is the subject of fierce debate: most scholars deduce, from the comparison with portraits minted on coins issued during the reign of his son Ptolemy III Evergete, that the figure clearly represents the idealized depiction of Ptolemy II Philadelphus. Other scholars, instead, argue that it is a portrait of Ptolemy III Evergete; finally other scholars believe that the figure represents Ptolemy IX Soter II Lathyros.
The bust could be a Roman copy of Attic or Peloponnesian school derived from a bronze original of the third quarter of the third century BC produced in a Greek town.

Herakles - Ercole
Heracles – Ercole
inv.5610 sculture-greco-romane

 

Heracles – Ercole

The bust was found between 22nd and 24th 1752 in the tablinum of Villa of the Papyri, a luxury villa located on the outskirts of the ancient Herculaneum (Ercolano).
The bust portrays a young man with his head bent and slightly turned to the right.
His face presents thin engraved eyebrows, a straight nose and a small fleshy mouth slightly open. His hair is combed in short locks, divided into thinner curls, on the nape and on the forehead, while it is combed in voluminous locks on the sides of the face.

The work is a reproduction of the Heracles made by Polyikleitos in 430 BC, but deprived of the taenia. The placement of the bust in the south-eastern side of the rectangular peristyle questioned by some scholars would be, instead, confirmed by the discovery in the same area of a bust which portrays the Heracles of the fourth century BC. The choice of putting the two works in the same place would have allowed the owner of the villa to enjoy the simultaneous vision of the same subject made by two of the greatest Greek sculptors separated by more than one century of history.

cd. Pirro
The so-called Phyrrus
cd. Pirro

The so-called Phyrrus

The bust was found on October 15th 1757 in the north-western side of the natation (swimming pool) in the large peristilium (four-sided colonnade with a central garden) of Villa of the Papyri, a luxury villa on the outskirts of the ancient Herculaneum (Ercolano).
The bust presents the nose and the lower lip strongly marked, the galea (peaked helmet) adorned with a wreath of oak leaves, closely fitting cheek-pieces and a royal diadem placed beneath the nape. The bust recalls the Lysippean iconography of Alexander the Great. It was identified as Pyrrus, king of Epirus, due to the wreath of oak leaves placed on the helmet, alluding to the most famous place in Epirus, the temple of Zeus of Dodona, where the oracles were expressed exactly on the leaves of the oak sacred to the god. It probably refers to the golden wreath given to Pyrrus in Catania, which the king pulled away during the insurrection of Argo in his vain attempt to avoid recognition.

Pseudo Saffo
Pseudo-Sappho
Pseudo Saffo

Pseudo-Sappho

The bust was discovered on February 23rd 1757 in the northern area of the large peristilium (four-sided colonnade with a central garden) of Villa of the Papyri, a luxury villa on the outskirts of the ancient Herculaneum (Ercolano).

The bust shows a young woman; she has a delicate face with a straight nose, a small and fleshy mouth, big eyes animated by the cornea made of bone or ivory and irises and pupils made of grey and black stone. The hair, parted in the middle, are held on the top of the head by a thin taenia (band) and gathered into a bun on the nape. The chest and the left shoulder are wrapped in a himation (cloak). The bust is influenced by the iconographic tradition of the Muses of the fourth century BC. By now it is certain that the figure represents a poet, even if it remains in doubt whether it can be identified as Sappho; in this case the bust would be a reproduction of the portrait reconstructed by Silanione in the late classical period (350 BC).

Dorifono
Doryphoros
Dorifono

Doryphoros

The herma was found on May 28th 1753 in Villa of the Papyri, a luxury villa on the outskirts of the ancient Herculaneum (Ercolano).
The herma was placed in the western corner of the square peristilium (four-sided colonnade with a central garden), in the middle of the structure that was provided with a central swimming pool and, at the corners, four fountains with a circular basin, behind each of which stood a bronze bust on a low marble pillar.
The herma represents a young man with marked facial features. The strong-boned head shows a stern expression. The hairstyle consists of flowing pincers-curled locks on the forehead. It is one of the reproductions of the very famous work by the Greek sculptor Polykleitos, the Doryphoros (spear-bearer), known through sources and several Roman copies of different artistic level.
The Greek inscription, engraved on the lower border, reminds that the herma was made by Apollonius of Archia, an Athenian sculptor of the Augustan Age

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