Fragment of woman on a sea creature


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. 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 explained 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. It ss 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
  • Culture
    Roman Imperial
  • Artist/Maker
  • Place made
    Europe: Southern Europe: Italy: Rome
  • Date made
    2nd Century AD
  • Materials
  • 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
  • Measurements
  • Note
    Curator's note: hoof of seahorse and another fragment stored with the statue (GM, September 2014). Bartman considered the workmanship of the Ince a careful one and this may suggest a distinct buyer who knew or wanted to associate this piece with the celebrated group of the nymphs riding centaur riding in Rome which was attributed to the Hellenistic artist Arkesilaos, his parton being Asinius Pollio and the work of the Nymphs riding centaurs quoted in Pliny.
  • Related people
    2nd Earl of Bessborough ( Previous owner); 3rd Earl of Bessborough ( Previous owner); Henry Blundell ( Collector, previous owner); Joseph William Weld ( Previous owner)

Explore related


  • 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

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

    Bartman, Elizabeth

    Author: Bartman, Elizabeth
    Publisher: Liverpool University Press
    Date: 2017
    Description: This book investigates the important antiquities collection formed by Henry Blundell of Ince Blundell Hall, near Liverpool, in the late eighteenth century. Consisting of more than 500 ancient marbles - the UK's largest collection of Roman sculptures after that of the British Museum - the collection was assembled primarily in Italy during Blundell's various 'Grant Tour' visits. As ancient statues were the preeminent souvenir of the Grand Tour, Blundell has strong competition from other collectors, British nobility and European aristocrats, monarchs, and the Pope. His statues represent a typical cross section of sculptures that would have decorated ancient Roman houses, villas, public spaces and even tombs, although their precise origins are largely unknown. Most are likely to have come from Rome and at least one was found at Hadrian's Villa at Tivoli.


  • 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.


Previous owners

  • Joseph William Weld

    Owned from: 1958
    How acquired: By descent
    Owned until: 1959
    Disposal method: Donation
  • Henry Blundell

    Owned from: 1801-04-07
    How acquired: Purchased
    Owned until: 1810
    Disposal method: Bequest
  • 3rd Earl of Bessborough

    Owned from: 1793
    How acquired: Inherited
    Owned until: 1801-04-07
    Disposal method: Sold
  • 2nd Earl of Bessborough

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