FATHER AND DAUGHTER – AD 150
After its restoration with the head, Antonio Nibby identified this sculptural group of a father and his daughter as Liber and Libera.
The head represents Dionysus wearing a headband and crowned with ivy; not originally part of the group, it comes from a work of the Madrid type, an example of which is to be found in the Borghese Gallery. The structure of the face and the details of the hairstyle, headband and crown are all very similar. The present inclined position of the head contrasts with the god’s posture in the original statue, where the head is tilted back, facing upwards. This copy may be dated to the early An-tonine period.
The girl has a chubby face with large almond eyes and full lips. Her hair, consisting of long wavy locks framing her high forehead, is held in place by a crown. The girl was identified by Domenico Montelatici as Lucilla, the daughter of Marcus Aurelius. Because of the smoothness of the surfaces and the soft transitions of the planes, the head may be dated to the early Imperial era.
Giacomo Manilli and Domenico Montelatici both mention, in the second enclosure of the Villa Borghese (the “garden of perspectives”), a statuary group of Antoninus Pius caressing his daughter crowned as an empress, which may be identified with the present work. The antique group is a monolith comprising the base, the male figure and the girl. The man is sitting with a cloak wrapped round his legs that goes over his shoulders and falls over his left arm. The right leg is placed forward, the left bent back; the right arm rests on his lap, the left is placed around the girl’s shoulders. The girl, standing by the man on a pedestal framed on the front with a deep mouldinc is wearing a chiton with an overfold and is holding a dove in her left hand.
After it had been restored with the head of Dionysus, Nibby decided that the group represented Liber, the Italian equivalent of Dionysus, and his companion Libera, often associated with Ceres, although she was also identified by Latin mythographere with the deified Ariadne. The male figure, which derives from models of the fifth century B.C., has been compared to the Zeus in the Museo Nazionale in Naples (only the lower part has survived), in which the fall of the central edge of the cloak and the position of the legs are similar. The girl’s attire also derives from funerary and votive images of the 4th century B.C. On the basis of the handling of the drapery, the group may be dated to the Antonine period. This would corroborate the interpretation of Montelatici, who identified the two figures whose heads were later replaced as Marcus Aurelius (whom the writer confused with Antoninus Pius) and his daughter Lucilla.
The fragment of the sarcophagus serving as a plinth and the other sections in the portico (no. 9b) and salone (the plinth bearing the Colossal portrait of Antoninus Pius) all belong to the same monument (with a total length of 252 cm), as may be seen in a drawing by Ernst Eichler. In this case, two Erotes holding up a garland of fruit are represented; above this, riding a sea-panther towards the left, is Cupid, with the reins in his left hand and a whip in the other. The motif of Erotes bearing garlands, which was very common in Roman sculpture, is of Hellenistic origin, and is found in sarcophagi made in Rome from the time of Hadrian onwards. In funerary art, the garlands allude to the deceased’s immortality, while marine symbols, even if represented summarily, have the same symbolic value as the complete thiasos; they refer to the deceased’s life in the afterworld, as may be seen in other sarophagi with the same subject that can be found elsewhere in the Borghese gallery.