Aphrodite of the Gardens: A Roman Marble Draped Figure, after Alkamenes
1st Century AD
White marble with patina and calcification
Height 42 1/8 inches (107 cm)
Jean-Philippe Mariaud de Serres, Paris
Acquired from the above circa 1980
Private collection, France
Galerie David Ghezelbash, Paris, 2012
Axel Vervoordt, Wijnegem, Belgium, 2013
Purchased from the above by Herbert Kasper, New York, 2013
The Estate of Herbert Kasper
This figure is a Roman copy of Aphrodite of the Gardens, a work of the late 5th century BC by the Athenian sculptor Alkamenes. In Antiquity Alkamenes was considered one of the best students of Phidias, the great master who directed the building program of the Parthenon at Athens and who probably designed most of the temple's sculpture. Alkamenes is thought to have taken over as director of the project when Phidias left Athens for Olympia during the 430s BC, and he is credited with creating the superbly draped marble goddesses on the Parthenon's east pediment.We know from various ancient sources that the original Aphrodite of the Gardens stood in or near the goddess's temple in a district of Athens outside the city walls called "The Gardens," hence its name. The Greek traveler Pausanias, who saw the figure during his visit to Athens in the 2nd century AD, wrote that it was "the work of Alkamenes, and one of the most noteworthy things in Athens." (Paus. 1.19.2., trans. W.H.S. Jones).
The figure's relaxed pose, its air of urbane nonchalance, and the handling of the drapery are all typical of what is called the "rich style" that emerged in Athens during the 420s BC. Remarkably, a red-figure ceramic epinetron (a knee-guard used during wool-working) attributed to the Eretria Painter now in the National Archaeological Museum in Athens, painted around 420 BC, features a drawing of Alkamenes's Aphrodite (now recast as Alcestis preparing for her wedding) [image among catalogue photographs]. This piece would have been painted very close in time to the statue's creation and its installation at Aphrodite's temple in The Gardens. Not only does the ceramic piece confirm the date of the work by Alkamenes, it also gives us an idea of the positions of the original figure's arms, the carriage of the head and the style of the hair.
Aphrodite of the Gardens also provided the model for the cult image of the goddess at her sanctuary at Dafni, on the Sacred Way to Eleusis. A fragment of the upper body of that work, dated to the late 5th century BC, is in the National Archaeological Museum at Athens.
The work offered here is one of several known copies of the Aphrodite of the Gardens from the 1st Century AD (including Naples inv. 6396, Heraklion inv. 325, and Louvre inv. Ma 420). Clearly the Romans' love of Greek civilization ignited an interest in copies of Greek sculpture from the classic period of the 5th century BC. While the style of this figure is derived from a Greek model, the technique is distinctly Roman. This is particularly evident in the liberal use of the running drill, which cuts the stone at a 45-degree angle rather than straight on. This angle of approach leaves deep channels in the stone's surface and creates dramatic shadows, which give the work an almost calligraphic surface appearance. When it was originally carved, the figure, like all Greco-Roman sculpture, would have been fully colored with encaustic, a paint composed of hot tinted wax.
C Estate of Herbert Kasper
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