Fragment of woman on a sea creature

59.148.83

About this object

Fragment of a female rider seated sideways on a sea creature, possibly a seahorse The legs of the woman are apart from each other and they are covered by drapery. The sea environment is indicated by the waves curved in relief on the support. Little remains of the animal other that its chest and the small protruding fin and its exact identity is unclear ( a hippocamp or any other sea creature ). The eyes are bulgy and drilled pupils make the head of the horse look less ancient. Bartman suggested that the animal may have been an exotic giraffe rather than a sea horse. The exacty identity of the seated woman cannot be identified as most of her body is missing. Blundell believed that the seated woman was Venus but the goddess is often seated on a swan or a ram. The nymphs Amphitrite or Nereid are a plausible interpretation as they are common in sarcophagi and Roman mosaics.

The sculpture may originally have been an element of a fountain. Ashmole compared it to the statue at Florence and similar ones at the Vatican and the Villa Albani and explains that the type may have be used to personify water on the Ara Pacis Augustae. Bartman also suggested a domestic context and possibly a fountain piece. Two seated women on hippocampus have been discovered at the Villa of Cynthia at Tivoli.

The statue has had different additions but its still in a fragmentary form lacking the upper body of the female rider. The upper body rested on the cavity left in the upper surface of the legs but it is unclear if the cavity reflects ancient piecing or modern preparations for restoration. There is no evidence of dowelling on the human figure but the horse's head and front leg are poorly attached with substrantial gaps, The muzzle, back and piece of neck are restored and the exaggerated modelling and bulging eyes raise suspicions about the ancient origin of the piece although it is possible according to Elizabeth Bartman that the animal represented was a giraffe rather than a sea horse. The ankles and the feet of the rider are also missing and a pin for attaching one or both legs can be discerned in the breakage below the skirt. Many fragments illustrated by Ashmole have now gone and the hoof and the forelock of the extended front leg is detached

Object specifics

  • Type
    Art
  • Culture
    Roman Imperial
  • Artist/Maker
    Unknown or unrecorded
  • Place made
    Europe: Southern Europe: Italy: Rome
  • Date made
    2nd Century AD
  • Materials
    Marble
  • Location
    Item not currently on display
  • Acquisition
    Gift of Col. Joseph W Weld, 1959
  • Collector
    Henry Blundell
  • Place collected
    Europe: Northern Europe: UK: England: London: Wandsworth: Roehampton
  • Date collected
    1801-04-07
  • Measurements
  • Note
    Curator's note: hoof of seahorse and another fragment stored with statue (GM, September 2014).
    Bartman comments: the workmanship of the Ince piece is careful and this may testify for ownership by a distinct buyer who wished to demonstrate the association with the celebrated group of centaur riding nymphs in Rome attributed to Archesilaos.
  • Related people
    2nd Earl of Bessborough (Previous owner); 3rd Earl of Bessborough (Previous owner); Henry Blundell (Collector, previous owner); Joseph William Col Sir Weld (Previous owner)

Explore related

Publications

  • A Catalogue of the Ancient Marbles at Ince Blundell Hall

    Ashmole, Bernard

    Author: Ashmole, Bernard
    Publisher: Clarendon Press
    Date: 1929
    Description: An illustrated catalogue of the ancient sculptures collected by Henry Blundell and formerly at Ince Blundell Hall.

  • Ancient Marbles in Great Britain

    Michaelis, A

    Author: Michaelis, A
    Publisher: Cambridge University Press
    Date: 1882
    Description:

  • The Ince Blundell collection of classical sculpture Volume III-The ideal sculpture

    Bartman, Elizabeth

    Author: Bartman, Elizabeth
    Publisher: Liverpool University Press
    Date: 2017
    Description:

Events

  • Sale of Lord Bessborough's collection

    Start date: 1801-04-07
    End date: 1801-04-07
    Description: Sale of the Bessborough family's collection of classical sculpture housed in Parkstead House, Roehampton, in April 1804. Although the sale was conducted by Christie's, the sale took place at Roehampton.

Ownership

Previous owners

  • Joseph William Col Sir Weld

    Owned from: 1958
    How acquired: Unknown or unrecorded
    Owned until: 1959
    Disposal method: Unknown or unrecorded
  • Henry Blundell

    Owned from: 1801-04-07
    How acquired: Unknown or unrecorded
    Owned until: 1810
    Disposal method: Unknown or unrecorded
  • 3rd Earl of Bessborough

    Owned from: 1793
    How acquired: Unknown or unrecorded
    Owned until: 1801-04-07
    Disposal method: Unknown or unrecorded
  • 2nd Earl of Bessborough

    Owned from: Unknown or unrecorded
    How acquired: Unknown or unrecorded
    Owned until: 1793
    Disposal method: Unknown or unrecorded
Object view = Humanities
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