Roman Alabaster statuette of a seated Minerva
Culture: Roman, Ro-Imperial
Period: 1st-2nd Century A.D.
Dimensions: Height: 14.6 cm
Provenance: ex-Jacques and Henriette Schumann collection, France.
The body is in a good state of preservation; the head, the arms and the feet are missing
The figure represents a seated woman. She is entirely draped in a long tunic, above which she wears a coat that wraps around her left arm, passes behind her back and covers her legs in a cascade of elaborate and elegant folds. The statue offers a strictly frontal view, but the treatment of the lower part of the body attracts the spectator’s attention towards the left side of the figure (the right knee is a little higher, the legs are slightly off-center, the folds of the coat are oblique). In spite of its reduced size and of the hard stone that it was carved from, this figure shows excellent artistic qualities, in the plastic modeling as well as in the rendering of the drapery with its widely varied and well composed folds. The alabaster surface is smooth and perfectly polished, perhaps imitating the carving of semi-precious stone.
The body is in a good state of preservation; the head, the arms and probably the feet were carved separately and attached by metal tenons. The arms were probably folded and did not touch the body or the legs. The woman wore metal armor (gold sheet, bronze?), which covered her back and chest (the breasts are bare, a belt or a thin strap tightened the armor around the waist) where the surface of the stone is smooth and without details, except for a medallion just under the décolleté. Below the armor, a belt cinche the tunic and shows the edge of the kolpos (in the Graeco-Roman fashion, the kolpos is the part of the tunic that was folded up at shoulder level, fall down in the back and onto the chest). The presence of the armor allows us to identify this figure: she is Minerva (Athena) wearing a cuirass instead of the aegis (the circular medallion replaces the gorgoneion), as in other Roman representations. The goddess sat on a throne: she belonged to a Capitoline triad, as the hole with the remains of a lead tenon pierced just above the left foot, – and the general composition, – slightly turned towards the left (legs, folds of the coat), – indicate. In the center stood the most important figure of the group, Jupiter (Zeus), while his wife, Juno (Hera), made a pair with Minerva and completed the composition on the spectator’s right. Minerva might have held a spear or a winged Victory in her hands. The Capitoline triad presented the three most important Roman divinities and was worshipped in the urbs on Capitoline Hill. Many groups, sculpted in the round or in relief from various areas of the Empire reproduce this subject.
Lexicon iconographicum Mythologiae Classicae (LIMC), vol. II, Zurich, 1984, s.v. Athena/Minerva, pp. 1094-1095 (Capitoline triad).
SAUER H., Die kapitolinische Trias, in Archäologischer Anzeiger1950-51, coll. 73-89.