Kallos Gallery

A Roman marble statue of a young girl as Artemis

This statue is a Roman marble portrait of a young girl with a contemporary hairstyle. Obviously from a wealthy family, she is dressed in the guise of the goddess Artemis or Diana.

Roman Imperial, circa AD 120-130

75cm high

A Roman marble statue of a young girl as Artemis

Roman Imperial, circa AD 120-130

75cm high


The individual features of the young girl’s face indicate that this is a portrait from Imperial Rome, whilst the dress, attribute, and pose are typical of depictions of the goddess Artemis. The statue, which is slightly under life size, was most probably created as a commemorative or votive monument.

It represents a young girl in motion advancing toward the viewer’s right; the position of the head follows the same direction and emphasizes it. Advancing her left leg and raising her right arm create the light torsion in the middle part of the body. Observing it from the back, one recognizes the quiver of cylinder-like shape attached with the strap (the diagonal cross-strap is seen at the front of the figure); this is a typical attribute of the goddess of the hunt, Artemis (Diana). Various images from Greek vase painting and sculpture are helpful to reconstruct the entire composition: there would be a hunting dog or her pet animal, a doe, or sometimes both, running in front of her left leg (there are remains of the tree trunk at her right knee serving as support for the entire heavy marble figure); with the right hand she prepares to draw an arrow from the quiver (the gesture and the advancing posture appear already in the depictions of the goddess on Attic vases of the Classical period). She wears a short sleeveless chiton tucked up to her knees to make running easier; the long overfold, apoptygma, is girdled high under her breasts and knotted. The goddess also wore high boots or sandals.

The iconography of the Greek original of the statue is best attested by Diana of Versailles in the Louvre, a Roman copy after a famous Hellenistic original (it was previously assigned to the Greek 4th century B.C. sculptor, Leochares). The Roman date of the present statue is indicated by the combination of two different elements in her hairstyle: the copied Melonenfrisur, popular among the Greek women since the late 4th century B.C., and the large and wide bun composed of twisted braids placed on the top of her head; the shape of it is characteristic for the hairstyle of the Roman ladies of the Trajanic and early Hadrianic periods. The qualities of the execution such as the delicate treatment of marble surface of the face, soft transitions of shapes combined with the precision in delineation of eyes and lips – would also place this sculpture in the same period. The depiction of face of the young girl marked by individual features (the rounded small chin, puff cheeks, thin lips, and rather large ears) leaves no doubt that this is a portrait.

The affiliation of an individual with the deity had an important meaning in the Roman religious culture: a specific god could be considered as his/her personal or family helper and protector. Since Augustus, Apollo and Diana became patronal gods of the Imperial family, so the representation of a woman in the guise of Diana would also have certain political implications. One might speculate if the present figure represented a deified young woman from the Imperial family; alternatively she may have been a priestess of Diana. Several statues exist showing the portraits of Roman ladies represented in the guise of Diana. Diana, the virgin goddess, may be understood to symbolise chastity, so it would be particularly appropriate for the votive or commemorative statue of a young girl. Several cults of Diana are known in ancient Rome, among them the cult of Diana Nemorensis was one of the most significant. She was worshipped as the divine huntress, the Moon goddess and the goddess of the nether world, Hekate, at her sanctuary on the Lake Nemi, not far from Rome, near the town of Aricia. Excavations have revealed a few votive marble statues and terracotta statuettes of similar composition dedicated to the goddess.


BIEBER M., The Sculpture of the Hellenistic Age, New York, 1967, p. 63, fig. 201.

GULDAGER BILDE P., MOLTESEN M., A Catalogue of Sculptures from the Sanctuary of Diana Nemorensis in The University of Pennsylvania Museum, Philadelphia, Rome, 2002, pp.

Lexicon Iconographicum Mythologiae Classicae (LIMC), vol. 2, Zürich, München, 1984, s.v. Artemis, pp. , nos.

WREDE H., Consecratio in formam deorum. Vergöttlichte Privatpersonen in der römischen Kaiserzeit, Mainz am Rhein, 1981, pp. 137, 222-225, nos. 82-89.

Swiss private collection, Neuchâtel, acquired in the 1960s.

Sotheby’s New York, June 2010, Lot 38

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