Art and sculptures from Hadrian’s Villa: Eight statues of seated Muses

This month’s masterpieces from Hadrian’s Villa are eight marble statues depicting seated muses.

In Greek mythology, the Muses were sister goddesses of music, poetry, and other artistic and intellectual pursuits. Poets and other artists often called on them for inspiration. Zeus, the king of the gods, was the father of the Muses. Their mother was Mnemosyne, goddess of memory. It was not until the 1st century BC that each of the Muses began to be related to a specific art. They were worshipped at the Museion of the famous library of Alexandria, from where the modern term “Museum” originates.

The statues were unearthed at Hadrian’s Villa in the 1500’s. They were made at the end of Hadrian’s reign by two Roman workshops reproducing Greek models from the 2nd century BC. The seated muses decorated the scenae frons (stage) of the odeon, a small theatre that could have held around 1,200 people.

The statues are now on display in the Prado Museum in Madrid.

Room of the Muses showing the eight marble statues depicting seated muses that were unearthed in about 1500 at Hadrian's Villa, Tivoli © Carole Raddato

Room of the Muses showing the eight marble statues depicting seated muses that were unearthed at Hadrian’s Villa
© Carole Raddato

In about 1670, the statues were acquired by Queen Cristina of Sweden (1626-1689) and exhibited in her palace in Rome. They were later acquired by Philip V of Spain (1683-1746) and reached the Royal Palace of La Granja de San Ildefonso (Segovia) in 1725.

The muses were heavily restored by the Italian sculptor Ercole Ferrata (1610-1686) who gave them new attributes in accordance with the identification they were given at the time. Only Terpsichore, the muse of dancing and choral song, was correctly identified. Due to their lack of original attributes, the exact names of the other muses cannot be identified.  They are now on display with their Baroque era names.

Statue of Terpsichore, Muse of dancing and choral song, unearthed in about 1500 in Hadrian's Villa, Tivoli © Carole Raddato

Terpsichore holding a lyre, muse of dancing and choral song, unearthed at Hadrian’s Villa, Tivoli
© Carole Raddato

The Muse Thalia bearing a portrait of Queen Cristina, muse of comedy, unearthed in about 1500 in Hadrian's Villa, Tivoli © Carole Raddato

Thalia bearing a portrait of Queen Cristina, muse of comedy, unearthed at Hadrian’s Villa, Tivoli
© Carole Raddato

The Muse Calliope with head of Aphrodite, muse of epic poetry, unearthed at Hadrian's Villa, Tivoli © Carole Raddato

Calliope with the head of Aphrodite, muse of epic poetry, unearthed at Hadrian’s Villa, Tivoli
© Carole Raddato

The Muse Euterpe, muse of lyric poetry, she is holding a aulos (double-flute) and has a small Eros at her feet, unearthed at Hadrian's Villa, Tivoli © Carole Raddato

Euterpe, muse of lyric poetry, she is holding a aulos (double-flute) and has a small Eros at her feet, unearthed at Hadrian’s Villa, Tivoli
© Carole Raddato

Urania, the muse of astronomy, holding a celestial globe, restored Roman copy of an original from the second century BC, unearthed at Hadrian's Villa, Tivoli © Carole Raddato

Urania, muse of astronomy, unearthed at Hadrian’s Villa, Tivoli
© Carole Raddato

Clio, Muse of history, unearthed at Hadrian's Villa, Tivoli © Carole Raddato

Clio, muse of history, unearthed at Hadrian’s Villa, Tivoli
© Carole Raddato

Polyhymnia, Muse of sacred hymns & poetry, unearthed at Hadrian's Villa, Tivoli © Carole Raddato

Polyhymnia, muse of sacred hymns & poetry, unearthed at Hadrian’s Villa, Tivoli
© Carole Raddato

Erato, muse of love poetry, unearthed at Hadrian's Villa, Tivoli © Carole Raddato

Erato, muse of love poetry, unearthed at Hadrian’s Villa, Tivoli
© Carole Raddato

About followinghadrian

I came, I saw, I photographed... follow me in the footsteps of Hadrian!
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7 Responses to Art and sculptures from Hadrian’s Villa: Eight statues of seated Muses

  1. ritaroberts says:

    I love the Room of the Muses Carole. All those beautiful statues are so graceful. Superb photo’s as always. Thanks for sharing.

    Like

  2. Pingback: Art and sculptures from Hadrian’s Villa: The marble theatrical masks | FOLLOWING HADRIAN

  3. patti rose says:

    I’ve been to Hadrians Villa and it was absolutely majestic but I really wish they would leave these artifacts in situe so I don’t have search for the “Cortile del Belvedere” at the very crowded Vatican and hopefully, one day in the future, make my way to the Prado to see the muses.

    Would you be able to tell me where the muses were located at Hadrians Villa before being removed and if there are copies of them there now? I don’t recall seeing them but it is a huge complex and I may have missed them, many thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

    • followinghadrian says:

      Unfortunately, only a few artefacts from Hadrian’s Villa are actually on display in the Antiquarium of the villa (where photography is not permitted!!!). The rest is scattered in museums across the world but mainly in Europe (Rome, Paris, London, Berlin, Munich, Madrid….). I have to do a lot of travelling to photograph all these artefacts! The Muses were found in the north part of the Villa. They decorated the small theatre (odeon), like the marble theatrical masks (see my last post). This part of the villa, behind the Serapeum, is now totally abandoned and in a state of neglect. Visitors cannot access this area of the villa anymore😦

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      • patti rose says:

        Yes, you are right about the Antiquarium, it is quite small. I am going again in May and will make a point of searching for the Serapeum and where the theatre would be. There was an area with a circular water pond that was blocked off, one of my friends commented that it used to be open to the public. Do you have any idea if it is open again? I was last there in 2014.

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      • followinghadrian says:

        If you look at the map on this page, it is the theatre at the top right http://vwhl.soic.indiana.edu/villa/index.php
        However you will find yourself blocked near the Serapeum and you won’t be able to walk further south towards the academy. The area with the circular water pond is the so-called Maritime Theatre. It was being renovated in 2014 (I was last there in July 2014) and should have re-opened to visitors in mid-2015.

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  4. patti rose says:

    Thank you so much, I really appreciate your information. The link to that website will keep me busy for a long time. My last visit I wandered about aimlessly just taking everything in and getting the feel of things, when I visit this time I will go with a plan of specific things to see and a map. Thanks again.

    Liked by 1 person

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