Photos

The Muses in Pictures

This week’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

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.

Terpsichore

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

Thalia

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

Calliope

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

Euterpe

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

Urania

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

Clio

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

Polyhymnia

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

Erato

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

Source: Following Hadrian

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Carole Raddato's favourite hobby is travelling and for the last 8 years she has taken a huge interest in the history of the ancient world. She has dedicated all her free time to this passion. She loves to share with other history fans all the incredible facts and stories that she discovers throughout her journeys. She is neither a professional photographer nor an ancient history scholar, but she hopes that everybody can enjoy her photos. She is particularly interested in everything related to the emperor Hadrian whom she finds fascinating. He was himself an incessant traveller, visiting every province in the Empire during his reign. When Carole is looking for new ideas for her travels, she usually takes inspiration from his journeys and it is a great motivation for her to follow him in his footsteps.