Tag Archives: Roman Sculpture

Who Was That Lady?

Athena or Hera or Demeter or Aphrodite or Someone ElseSay good-bye to this ancient Roman goddess before she leaves her present home in The Getty Villa in Los Angeles. She will return this Sunday to her birthplace, Sicily, where, we hope, she will be better treated than before when she was left buried like an old tin can for several millennia. Having seen how nice she looks when cleaned up, the Sicilians suddenly want her back, so back she goes.

Her name is Aphrodite or Hera or Demeter or Athena, depending on the now-missing identifying objects she once held, and on the now-missing headpiece she once wore. Maybe the Sicilians can kick around in the dirt and find something to I.D. the lady.

You can see that Jane Doe — Giovanna Cervus in Latin — is a doughty hunk of woman. Eight feet at least, without shoes. The picture above includes a field trip kid for scale.

Mostly she’s made of limestone, but her head, arms and feet are marble. Marble, intones the informational card on her pedestal, was an expensive Greek import and so was saved for the nicer bits.

We’re also told that close inspection reveals faint traces of pink and blue pigment in the crevices. No such close inspection was vouchsafed this member of the public. The alert museum guards forbade pedestal clambering. Peer as we might from the allowed distance, nothing pink or blue was revealed to our sight. But we take the coloration as a matter of faith from the Getty curators who have never lied to us.

The statue was carved sometime around 400 B.C. Or 400 “B.C.E” to you godless heathens out there. It’s well preserved — not too badly weathered, that is — so we guess the Sicilians valued Ms Unknown Goddess and took good care of her for a while, until they forgot where they’d put her.

Maybe she's Miss Etna 400 B.C.