Lot 27
  • 27

A Hellenistic Marble Torso of Aphrodite, circa 1st Century B.C., or earlier

800,000 - 1,200,000 USD
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  • A Hellenistic Marble Torso of Aphrodite
  • Marble
  • Height 39 5/8 in. 100.7 cm.
of slender and graceful form, the goddess leaning against a now-missing support, her left leg crossed in front of the right, and wearing a diaphanous chiton with buttoned sleeve, narrow belt tied at the waist, and himation with long deeply carved folds falling at her side, some gathered up against the edge of the chiton in back, the texture of the fabrics indicated in part with light strokes of the chisel.


European private collection(s), circa 17th Century (based on restoration techniques)
in France by 1946 (based on the remains of a French Customs stamp dated February 1946 and still affixed on the back of the early 20th Century marble base)
in storage in New York City for the last fifty years

Catalogue Note

The fully finished back, fluid "wet drapery" effects, and subtle texturing of the garments' surfaces with the chisel suggest a Hellenistic rather than a Roman date.

In the original statue whose torso is preserved here and of which there is no other identical example known to be in existence, Aphrodite would have been leaning sharply to her left and resting her left arm on a tall support partially covered with drapery. Except for the arrangement of the drapery over the chest the present torso is closely related to a late 5th-century Greek type of Leaning Aphrodite called the "Gortyn-Louvre" type and known from several Roman copies (e.g. Heraklion, Archaeological Museum, inv. no. 325, from Gortyn: M. Bieber, Ancient Copies, New York, 1977, fig. 437, LIMC, vol. II, 1984, p. 30, no. 195, http://arachne.uni-koeln.de/item/marbilderbestand/819160; Musée du Louvre, inv. no. Ma 414, restored as Euterpe: Bieber, op. cit., fig. 438, LIMC, vol. II, 1984, p. 30, no. 196, http://arachne.uni-koeln.de/item/marbilderbestand/819183; Naples, National Museum, inv. no. 6396: Bieber, op. cit., fig. 439, LIMC, vol. II, 1984, p. 29, no. 185, http://arachne.uni-koeln.de/item/objekt/13261; from Tralleis, now lost: E. Pottier, Bulletin de correspondance Hellénique, vol. 5, 1881, pp. 279-282, pl.13A, http://www.persee.fr/web/revues/home/prescript/article/bch_0007-4217_1881_num_5_1_4261, and LIMC, vol. II, 1984, p. 30, no. 194).

Scholars have identified the Gortyn-Louvre type with the sculptor Alkamanes' "Aphrodite of the Gardens," a statue known to have stood in her own sanctuary in Athens from the late 5th Century B.C. until at least the 2nd Century A.D. (Pliny, Natural History, 36, 16; Pausanias, 1.19.2; Lucian of Samosata, Imagines, 4 and 6; for a fragment from Daphni thought to be part of the original cult statue see A. Delivorrias, "Die Kultstatue der Aphrodite von Daphni," Antike Plastik, vol. 8, 1968, pp. 19-32, http://arachne.uni-koeln.de/item/objekt/34707).

On Hellenistic adaptations of the Gortyn-Louvre type see J.P. Niemeier, Kopien und Nachahmungen im Hellenismus: ein Beitrag zum Klassizismus des 2. und frühen 1. Jhs. v. Chr., 1985, p. 102.

At some stage after its discovery, all the major breaks on the extremities of the present torso were filed down, drilled for mortises, and newly-carved marble additions were fastened to the ancient core using iron pins secured with lead, a type of restoration routinely carried out in Rome in the Renaissance and Baroque periods. Unusual are the lack of restorations on the drapery folds and the lack of modern repolishing over the entire surface, which one would normally expect to have been carried out simultaneously with the Ergänzung process.

In its restored state, the present torso was probably leaning, as it did in the original statue, and must have looked much like the Louvre and Naples examples of the "Aphrodite in the Gardens," possibly with attributes identifying her as a muse. Sometime in the early part of the 20th century, when the taste for restored statues was already waning fast, the additions were systematically removed and the torso was positioned upright on a massive base made of solid variegated green marble.