Home page

Global notice COVID-19 Important notice
A ROMAN MARBLE STATUE OF THE EMPRESS LIVIA
THE STOWE HOUSE LIVIA THE PROPERTY OF A GENTLEMAN
A ROMAN MARBLE STATUE OF THE EMPRESS LIVIA

PROBABLY TIBERIAN OR LATER, CIRCA 14 A.D.-LATE 1ST CENTURY A.D.

Details
A ROMAN MARBLE STATUE OF THE EMPRESS LIVIA
PROBABLY TIBERIAN OR LATER, CIRCA 14 A.D.-LATE 1ST CENTURY A.D.
The over-lifesized figure standing with her weight on her left leg, the right relaxed and bent at the knee, wearing a floor-length stola which falls in pleats to her platform sandals which emerge from beneath, swathed in a voluminous palla draped around her body, underneath her right arm, across her front and over her left shoulder, covering her left arm to the hand which supports a large swag of drapery in the centre of her waist, her bare right arm raised with a scroll in her hand, the palla pulled up to veil her head, which is crowned with a diadem decorated with flowers and sheaths of wheat, sitting atop her wavy hair, centrally-parted and loosely pulled back underneath the veil, her delicate oval face with lidded eyes, a petite mouth with characteristic receding lower lip, and rounded chin
81 in. (206 cm.) high
Provenance
Stowe House, Buckinghamshire, by 1777.
The Stowe Sale; Christie, Manson and Woods, London, 3 October 1848 (thirty-sixth day), lot 18, 'Agrippina, as the Muse of History'; sold to Mr A. Robertson Esq., Surrey. A. Robertson 'appears to have been acting for the Earl of Lonsdale of Lowther Castle' (B. Cassidy, 'Gavin Hamilton, Thomas Pitt and Statues for Stowe', The Burlington Magazine, vol. 146, no. 1221, p.808 note 27).
Earl of Lonsdale, Lowther Castle, Cumbria.
Lowther Castle, near Penrith, Cumberland. The major part of the Earl of Lonsdale's collection; Maple & Co. Ltd, 30 April 1947, lot 2284, 'Agrippina'.
Private collection, Cumbria, acquired in 1957 from Lowther Castle; and thence by descent to the present owner.

Brought to you by

Georgiana Aitken
Georgiana Aitken

Check the condition report or get in touch for additional information about this

Condition report

If you wish to view the condition report of this lot, please sign in to your account.

Sign in
View condition report

Lot Essay

PUBLISHED:
J. B. Seeley, Stowe: A Description of the Magnificent House and Gardens of the Right Honourable Richard Grenville Temple, Earl Temple, Viscount and Baron Cobham, Buckingham, 1777, p. 34.
Ibid., Stowe: A Description of the House and Gardens, Buckingham, 1788, p. 38.
Ibid., The Description of his Lordship's House and Gardens at Stowe, Buckingham, 1797, p. 40.
J. Britton and E. Wedlake Brayley, The Beauties of England and Wales, vol. 1, London, 1801, p. 301.
G. A. Cooke, 'Buckinghamshire', Topography of Great Britain, 1802-1809, p. 49.
J.B. Seeley, Stowe: A Description of the House and Gardens of the Most Noble and Puissant Prince George Grenville Nugent Temple, Marquis of Buckingham, Earl Temple, Viscount and Baron Cobham, Buckingham, 1817, p. 31.
Ibid., Stowe: A Description of the House and Gardens, Buckingham, 1832, p. 36.
G. Lipscomb, The History and Antiquities of the County of Buckingham, vol. 3, London, 1847, p. 88.
H. R. Forster (ed.), The Stowe Catalogue, London, 1848, p. 264, no. 18.
S. C. Hall and L. Jewitt, 'The Stately Homes of England (Occasionally open to the public). Lowther Castle.' The Art Journal, vol. 2, 1876, p. 357-360, ill. p. 359.
P. Arndt and W. Amelung, Photographische Einzelaufnahmen Antiker Skulpturen, Munich, 1941, no. 3088-3090.
W. H. Gross, Iulia Augusta. Untersuchungen zur Grundlegung einer Livia-Ikonographie, Gottingen, 1962, p. 121, no. 36.
H. Bartels, Studien zum Frauenporträt der augusteischen Zeit: Fulvia, Octavia, Livia, Julia, Munich, 1963, p. 60, no. 490.
H. von Heintze, 'Book review: W. H. Gross, Iulia Augusta. Untersuchungen zur Grundlegung einer Livia-Ikonographie', AJA, vol. 68, no. 3, July 1964, p. 320.
K. Fittschen and P. Zanker, Katalog der römischen Porträts in den Capitolinischen Museen und den anderen kommunalen Sammlungen der Stadt Rom, Mainz, 1983, vol. III, no. 3.9.
E. Bartman, Portraits of Livia, Cambridge, 1999, p. 162.


LIVIA

Livia Drusilla (58 B.C.-29 A.D.), the first Empress of Rome, is an iconic and enigmatic figure who continues to inspire frenzied debate. She married the future emperor Augustus, then Octavian, in 38 B.C. whilst heavily pregnant by her first husband; this son, Tiberius, would become Rome’s second Princeps upon Augustus’ death in 14 A.D., with her great-grandson (Caligula) and grandson (Claudius) inheriting the supremacy thereafter. Her significance as materfamilias of the gens Iulia is unquestionable, though the extent of her involvement and power in the politics of the early principate is less clear. A degree of influence can be presumed; in an autocracy such as the principate was, those females intimately related to the dominant men could exploit their proximity to further their interests. Historians, both ancient and modern, have long sought to decipher just how far Livia’s authority might have spread – to see which of Augustus’ reforms, policies, and personal decisions his wife had a hand in. The irony will remain that, despite more being known about Livia’s life than nearly any other Roman woman, the truth of how she acted, and what results these procured, is largely a mystery. This is almost inevitable. The emergence of the Principate saw the location of political activity shift from the public forum to the domestic sphere of the Princeps – politics was no longer an observable event, and the machinations behind decisions became evermore opaque.

The combination of Livia holding an indisputably central role in the Principate with the lack of surety regarding her actions has rendered her a tempting carte blanche for both ancient and modern biographers. The most salacious accounts cast her as a malevolent schemer: at best, Machiavellian in pushing her agenda, at worst, a serial poisoner, whose supposed victims include Germanicus, the darling prince of the Empire, Marcellus, Augustus’ beloved nephew, and Augustus himself. Whatever the truth, relations with some of the gens Iulia were undoubtedly strained, most notably with her own son: upon her death, Tiberius refused to probate Livia’s will, or to deify her. The former had to be performed by Caligula, and the latter honour was bestowed by Claudius, in 41 A.D.

Despite the rumours, which most likely swirled even during her lifetime, Livia ‘set the standard by which all later empresses measured themselves’ (D. E. E. Kleiner and S. B Matheson, I Claudia: Women in Ancient Rome, New Haven, 1996, p. 53). Adopted by Augustus into the gens Iulia in his will, and thereafter known as Iulia Augusta, the visual record offers rich testimony to her significant role in embodying, elucidating and transmitting the Principate’s political and moral programme, a role which was demanded of each subsequent Romana Princeps. Livia wears the stola here, the floor-length garment ‘reserved for the chaste married woman’ (J. L. Sebesta and L. Bonfante, The World of Roman Costume, Wisconsin, 2001, p. 49). She is garbed as the ideal Roman matron, her pudicitia emphasised in her modest and dignified bearing. Her diadem, which, along with her Greek goddess hairstyle probably denotes her divinity, is decorated with flowers and sheaths of wheat, the attributes of Ceres, goddess of the harvest. These symbols associate Livia with agricultural fertility, and laud the prosperity of the empire under Augustus and Tiberius. Imperial women would continue to identify themselves with Ceres ‘as the symbol of the ideal woman, emphasizing chastity and motherhood’ (Sebesta and Bonfante, p. 185) throughout the Imperial age. Without the original attribute that would have been held in her right hand, it is unclear whether Livia is shown here as the goddess Ceres herself (if so, a cornucopia, poppies, or sheaths of wheat may have been held), or simply as diva Augusta, a deified imperial personage. For a very similar crowned portrait, cf. Hermitage State Museum, St Petersburg, inv. No. A116; cf. Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen, no. 1643 for a standing figure of Livia as Ceres, with similar hair and veil; and cf. New Haven numismatic collection, Yale University for a dupondius struck 22-23 A.D. showing Livia veiled and crowned, with the legend PIETAS. For a standing figure of Agrippina the Younger, veiled and holding a scroll, whose similarity could explain the original mis-identification of the present lot, cf. Loggia of Lanzi, Florence.

AT STOWE

‘I have not been insensible to the opportunities of enriching myself and my country with the spoils of Roman grandeur’
George Grenville to W. Morton Pitt, letter from Bologna, 14 May 1774.

The present lot is recorded in successive editions of J. B. Seeley’s description of Stowe House from 1777 onwards, having most likely been acquired by George Grenville (1753-1813) in 1774 during his visit to Italy as part of his Grand Tour. George, later 3rd Lord Temple and 1st Marquess of Buckhinghamshire, was presumably working under the instruction of the incumbent Lord Temple, his uncle, when he made several purchases of ancient marbles from Gavin Hamilton and others. The acquisitions were sent back to England to adorn Stowe House. The Stowe House Livia, then incorrectly identified as ‘Agrippina’, was first placed in the South Loggia, before being moved to the newly-finished Saloon in 1788; by 1832, she was once again in the South Loggia. Two depictions of the Saloon at Stowe include the Livia: an engraving reproduced in D. Fitzgerald, ‘A History of the Interior of Stowe’, Apollo, June 1973, p. 582, ill. 17, dating to the 1790s, and a later work by another unknown hand, currently held at Buckinghamshire County Museum, Aylesbury, and sold by Sotheby and Co. January 1849, lot 5197, (‘Stowe (views of) and taken in 1805-6-7-9 consisting of 110 original drawings in crayon, bistre etc. by J. C. Nattes, 2 vol.’). Notoriously, the fortunes of the Grenville family plummeted in the mid-19th century, purportedly due to the incumbent Duke's profligacy when preparing for a visit by Queen Victoria in 1847. A sale of unprecedented scale of the contents of Stowe House followed in 1848. Mr James Christie sold the Stowe House Livia to an agent of Lord Lonsdale of Lowther Castle on the thirty-sixth day of the auction for £47 5s.

More from Antiquities

View All
View All