Kallos Gallery

A Roman marble torso of Artemis of Ephesus

Circa 1st Century AD

 

61 cm high

A Roman marble torso of Artemis of Ephesus

Circa 1st Century AD

61 cm high

 

The goddess has a stiff frontal body clad in a chiton, which is visible from the folds on her upper arms. The lower half of the torso is surrounded in a five-tiered cluster of ovoid ornaments. Above this the goddess wears two heavy necklaces with pendants. The upper necklace has a rosette in the center enclosed by a crescent, flanked by a series of pinecone and acorn pendants. From the lower necklace hang six elongated oval pendants separated by roses. The goddess wears a close fitting ependytes from her hips downwards, which is divided into two tiers of rectangular sections. The upper tier has a forepart of a bull in each section, while the lower tier has a rosette in each. The head is now missing, however the remains of a veil rise up from behind the goddess’ shoulders. The forearms are also missing, a pin to secure the joint remains in the left arm.

This rare and important figure is unmistakably a later Roman copy of the famous sculpture of Artemis worshipped in the principal temple of Ephesus, near the west coast of Asia Minor. The temple was built in the 6th century BC and its magnificent construction led it to become one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.

Such was the renown of temple and cult image inside that it is mentioned in the Bible: “Doesn’t all the world know that the city of Ephesus is the guardian of the temple of the great Artemis and of her image, which fell from heaven?” (Acts 19:35).

The image of the Ephesian Artemis is known from the many varied replicas, but also from depictions on ancient coins. Two important, almost completely preserved marble examples have been excavated in Ephesus and Leptis Magna.

The sheer size of these examples combined with ancient written sources suggest that they would have served as the principal cult image in temples and shrines dedicated to Artemis. These examples provide visual evidence for how the Kallos torso would have originally appeared and suggest that she too would have served as a cult image.

There has been much scholarly discussion and interpretation regarding the cluster of ovoid forms decorating the midsection of the torso. They have frequently been identified as breasts, an interpretation that dates back to at least the late Roman period. Other interpretations include ostrich eggs, gourds, bull’s testicles and beehives. Beehives are perhaps the most likely, since the bee was a symbol of Ephesian Artemis. However, scholars now agree that most of the surface of the statue of Ephesian Artemis depicts garments and ornaments.

 

LITERATURE

LiDonnici, L., “The Images of Artemis Ephesia and Greco-Roman Worship: A Reconsideration,” Harvard Theological Review, 85.43 (1992) pp. 389-415.

Fleischer, R., Lexicon iconographicum mythologiae classicae, vol. 2 (1984), under “Artemis Ephesia”.

PROVENANCE

With Elie Borowski, Basel, Switzerland, 1960s

UK private collection, Mr. B.H., acquired 15 March 1968

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