2023 Author: Bryan Walter | [email protected]. Last modified: 2023-05-21 22:24
After years of litigation, the Bavarian police handed over a small marble bust to the Spanish city of Bornos, which was stolen 10 years ago. Justice triumphs, although the guilty have not been found and therefore not punished. It is curious, however, that something completely different: no one has any doubts that the stolen bust was found, but the bust of the Empress Livia was stolen in due time - and, apparently, the bust of her daughter-in-law, Antonia the Younger, is returning to Bornos. Yuli Uletova, the author of the project “Pompeii. Step by step".
In the 1960s, near the Spanish town of Bornos, a farm plow pulled a piece of marble with a face out of the ground. Once there was the city of Karissa, owned by the Turdetans - an ancient people who lived in the south of the Iberian Peninsula. When the Romans came to Iberia, the city was renamed Aurelia Karissa - therefore, the find of a fragment of a Roman statue about 40 centimeters high and 25 kilograms in weight surprised few people.
The ruins of the Roman mausoleum at Aurelius Carissa
It was assumed that the bust belongs to the Empress of Libya - the wife of Emperor Octavian Augustus. In Bornos, the bust first adorned the city hall, and then moved to the Ribera Palace in the city center - from there it was stolen in 2010. The robbery case has not yet been solved.
Marble bust of "Libya"
In 2018, professor of archeology at the University of Seville, Jose Beltran Fortes, and a colleague studied the sculpture of Roman Cadiz and noticed that the stolen bust from Bornos looks more like portraits of Antonia the Younger than Libya.
Antonia the Younger is the daughter of Mark Antony, niece of Augustus, mother of Emperor Claudius. She is not at all a stranger to Libya: the empress took part in her upbringing, and after Antonia she married the son of Libya from her first marriage. According to Beltran, not many images of Antonia have survived - less than two dozen.
Marble bust of Antonia the Younger
To verify his hypothesis, Beltran continued to study images of Mark Antony's daughter - and found a 3D model of a bust of Antonia from an exhibition in the Munich Glyptotek - very similar to the bust of Libya stolen in Bornos. It was said about him that he "came from an English private collection." But Beltran was convinced that the bust in the exhibition and the stolen bust from Bornos were one and the same sculpture. He substantiated his confidence in the find with the stylistic features of the portrait, which the sculptor adapted to the local provincial fashion. In addition, on the cheek and ear of the bust of Livia from Bornos, there were injuries from the plow that "discovered" it - the professor noted exactly the same on the sculpture of Antonia at the exhibition.
Bust of Antonia the Younger on display at the Munich Glyptotek
When the Spanish authorities provided this data to the museum, its management was unable to take on the responsibility of transferring the bust to another country and decided to return it to a private collector from the UK. It turned out that the collector bought the sculpture in 2011 at an auction in Munich for 48 thousand euros, not knowing, according to him, about its criminal origin.
This was followed by a long and tedious trial and negotiations with the unnamed owner of the bust to the general public. And finally, on October 15, at the Spanish Consulate in Munich, representatives of the Bavarian criminal police solemnly handed over the bust of Libya / Antonia the Younger to the Spanish Civil Guard. The sculpture will return to Bornos, where it will take its former place, but under the supervision of video cameras, the mayor of the city assured the press.
And while the story of the Libya / Antonia bust has a happy ending, the mayor of Bornos complains about the existence of a black market for antiquities in the province of Cadiz and elsewhere in Spain. This is especially true in rural areas, where finds of artifacts happen quite often, but the situation with state protection is unimportant. However, this is not only a problem of Spain or Europe as a whole. "Black diggers" cause irreparable harm to archeology and Russia.
It would seem, how to find out who the portrait depicts if it is not signed? But Roman sculptors have a lot of clues. For the ruling dynasty, for example, images on coins are taken into account.
Coin minted under Tiberius (22-23 AD). On the reverse side is the profile of Livia as Pietas.
In addition, there was a rather dynamic fashion for hairstyles and jewelry in Ancient Rome - often empresses were its legislators. Following the main matron of the country, the inhabitants of the empire styled their hair in waves or curls, curled into tight curls, decorated with tiaras or pearl nets. For example, a woolen headband on the hair could indicate the fulfillment of priestly functions, and the image of Juno could indicate that a woman from an imperial family served as a model. By the way, in the case of Antonia, both such images are known.
"Juno Ludovisi" - Antonia the Younger as Juno
Statue of Livia as Opa, goddess of fertility
The already identified sculptures also help in defining the persona. The images of the members of the imperial family are, of course, idealized, but nevertheless, the individual features of the model's face were taken seriously in the Roman portrait. It is quite common for male busts to have receding hairline, hooked noses, or a lot of wrinkles. Of course, the sculptors were much more supportive of women, nevertheless, even the complimentary portraits were probably close to reality.
Now, when the detective story with the abduction of the bust of the Empress of Libya (or her daughter-in-law) has successfully ended, it seems that experts in ancient Roman art will be engaged in the "investigation". It is they who will have to finally confirm or refute the assumption of Professor Beltran.