Fragment of woman on a sea creature



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.