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Work of the Week: Statue of a Seated Woman

It's true: many sculptures from ancient Greece and Rome have lost their heads and limbs in the millennia since their creation, but in the case of this Roman statue, the head was not exactly lost. In fact, the sculpture was specially made with the deep well in the neck to accommodate interchangeable heads. Marble was expensive, and it was rather wasteful—of time and resources—to throw out an elaborately carved sculpture and make a new one every time a new ruler came to power. So those economical Romans regularly reused the stone bodies and simply replaced the heads. This figure, draped with the heavy folds of a long garment and cloak, would have suited the goddess Juno or an empress such as Faustina the Elder or her daughter Faustina II, both elevated to goddesses after their deaths. Or perhaps the sculpture served as the body of all three in turn!

See Statue of a Seated Woman and other (headless) Roman sculptures in Gallery 154 and find out even more in the online catalogue Roman Art at the Art Institute of Chicago.

Statue of a Seated Woman, 2nd century A.D. Roman. Katherine K. Adler Memorial Fund.