PROPERTY FROM A BRITISH PRIVATE COLLECTION
The myth depicted on the cuirass refers to an episode in Homer's Iliad, when the great warrior Achilles loses his armor to the Trojans, and his mother, the Nereid Thetis, convinces Hephaestus to forge a new set, which she delivers to him with other Nereids. Whether the iconography of the cuirass has any symbolic meaning, such as a naval victory or imperial domination over the seas, is far from certain (Stemmer, op. cit., p. 157).
The present statue was first recorded in 1832, three years after it was acquired by the Duke of Buckingham, as having come from the Braschi family collection in Rome. According to Massimiliano Papini (op. cit., p. 15), the Braschi collection of antiquities was entirely formed by the year 1799. On April 19th, 1816, immediately following Don Luigi Braschi’s death, a detailed inventory was made of his collection at the family’s Palazzo located between the Corso and the Piazza Navona in Rome. The statue in its present state is not included in this inventory. One possibility is that it was then kept in one of the family’s other residences. A second possibility is that the ancient core of the statue had not yet been restored, and that the ancient cuirassed torso alone is listed as the very last item in the inventory, a “fragmento di una corazza antica, segnata col numero 127.”
If the latter is the case, the torso was restored as a complete statue between 1816 and 1829, when the Duke of Buckingham brought it to England along with two Cippolino marble tazze or basins, which do appear in the 1816 Braschi inventory. All three items were displayed on the loggia at Stowe, along with other marble figures and groups, an intricate mix of ancient and modern statuary (on the antiquities collection at Stowe, see Jonathan Scott, The Pleasures of Antiquity, British Collectors of Greek and Rome, New Haven, 2003, pp. 259-260).
The contents of Stowe house were sold in 1848, and the present statue was purchased by William Wakeford Attree, a lawyer who was likely a purchasing agent for the 2nd Earl of Lonsdale, in whose collection at Lowther Castle the statue was next recorded. The Earl of Lonsdale was one of the richest men in England at the time, and among the last collectors of ancient marble statuary in the fashion of the 18th century. His collection was housed in two galleries which he had added to the castle in 1866 for this purpose. They both projected into the park at the back of the building and are still standing (Jonathan Scott, op. cit, pp. 263-264).
One can hypothesize as to why a mid-1st Century A.D. cuirassed torso was restored as a statue of Lucius Verus. The Antonine emperor is known as an efficient civil servant and a capable soldier, but his legacy is largely elevated by the series of exceptional rulers with whom he is associated. Lucius served as co-emperor alongside Marcus Aurelius between A.D. 161 and his untimely death in 169. Their rule was the last in a succession of so-called “adoptive emperors” of the Antonine dynasty, rulers who were adopted by their predecessors. The prosperity of the Roman Empire during this period is generally attributed to the careful selection of heirs to the throne. This occurred between the infamous reigns of Nero and Commodus, who inherited power from their predecessors. Niccolò Machiavelli termed this period of succession “Five Good Emperors” in his Discourses on the First Decade of Titus Livius.
This lot will be available for pick-up after the auction from a storage facility in Long Island City, NY. Beginning July 1st, 2013, the buyer will be liable for the payment of all storage and insurance charges at their standard rates.
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