Roman art, 2nd century AD
Inv. MAF n. 13728
Inventory and materials
Uffizi Galleries, Gallery of Statues and Paintings, inv. MAF 13728. The older part is made in Dokimeion marble. The “Milani” head and the lower part of the body are also in Dokimeion marble - additions dating back to the 16th century, while the present head and the base are in Apuan marble.
Length 2.26 m; height 1.29 m; depth 1.03 m.
Origin, critical reception and history in the collection
More recent studies of this statue of the Florence Ariadne, known for many years as Cleopatra, agree that this marble work come from the Del Bufalo collection and that after a short time in the collection of Cardinal Ippolito d’Este in 1572, it joined the group of ancient sculptures that Ferdinando de’ Medici was putting together in his Villa del Pincio (Sthäli 2001, p. 383, note 11; Cecchi-Gasparri 2009, p. 296). Claudia Marie Wolf (2002, p. 88) has, however, rightly emphasised that the lack of any reference to a Cleopatra among the statues bought from the del Bufalo collection by Ippolito d’Este means that this theory, although plausible, is not certain. As already pointed out by Clelia Laviosa (1958, p. 171), Ulisse Aldovrandi, in his treatise on the ancient sculptures of Rome published in the mid-16th century, mentions three other Cleopatras, as well as the del Bufalo. Among these, the sculpture belonging to Cardinal Rodolfo Pio da Carpi is an equally plausible candidate, taking into account that important works, such as the Dying Alexander (Gasparri 2004, p. 51) and the Pothos in the third corridor of the Uffizi Galleries (Paolucci 2007, pp. 29 s.) came from this prestigious collection, on a par with that of Cardinal d’Este. If we add other eventualities to this idea, also suggested by Wolf and still yet to be demonstrated but equally plausible, such as the finding of the Florentine Cleopatra in a period subsequent to Aldovrandi’s descriptions, perhaps even thanks to research conducted after the permission granted to Ferdinand in 1576 to excavate in Rome and Tivoli (Wolf 2002, p. 88, note 311), it would appear to be more prudent to leave open the question of the Florentine Cleopatra’s vicissitudes in various collections before arriving at Villa del Pincio. Once there, the statue was placed in a pavilion created from one of the towers in the Aurelian walls, known then as the “Loggia della Cleopatra”, where it is mentioned for the first time in inventories of 1588 (ASF, Guardaroba Medicea 79, inv. 1588, n. 1171). Among this - albeit brief - evidence, such as the note by Francesco Valesio (AStC, Archivio Storico Notarile. Iscrizioni e memorie di antichità. Cred. XIV, tomo 39, c. 330r. ), in the early 18th century, and by Luigi Lanzi (AGU, ms. Lanzi 36.3, fol. 45r.), in 1782, we should consider in particular the observations made on several occasions by Johann Wincklemann on the sculpture at the Pincio villa. As is widely known, the Medici collection was the first collection of antiquities that the German scholar visited after arriving in Rome in the autumn of 1755 (Schröter 1990, p. 379) and the Cleopatra, the most famous work in the villa after Niobids, could not have failed to be of great interest to the scholar. Even in the Geschichte (Winckelmann 1764, p. 386), came the inevitable comparison with the Vatican model, although, in Winckelmann’s opinion, the Medici statue could boast a far superior head, able to hold its own among the most beautiful heads of ancient times, were it not for the fact that it was definitely modern. The enthusiastic opinion of the added head seems to be defused in the Storia delle arti e del disegno (Winckelmann 1783, p. 367), where it is mentioned as an example of a clumsy attempt by a modern sculptor to imitate the Homeric βοώπις. Moreover, and more than once in his Geschichte (Winckelmann 1764, p. 386) and in his Storia delle arti (Winckelmann 1783, pp. 406, 435 s.), Winckelmann openly declares his scepticism regarding the traditional interpretation of the statue as Cleopatra, wrongly suggested, in his opinion, by the presence of the serpent-shaped bracelet. Instead he prefers to see it as a Nymph or a sleeping Venus. The renovated Cleopatra entered the Uffizi Galleries in 1790, where it was placed in a room off the third corridor (now room 41), where it was noted by the guides (books?) of the period (Zacchiroli 1790, p. 287; Cambiagi 1793, p. 249). The statue’s period in the Uffizi was, however, to be quite brief. Confirming the harsh opinion of Puccini in his report a few years later, in the autumn of 1794, the newly appointed director asked for and obtained the removal of the statue, considered to be unworthy of the museum’s collections “due to its lack of antiquity” (AGU 1793-1794, Filza XL). It was moved to the Villa del Poggio Imperiale on 8 March 1796 (AGU 1796-1797, Filza XXVI, ins. 40), where it likely remained until 1865, when, in the period that Florence was made capital of Italy (Dütschke 1875, p. 25), it was chosen to decorate a public office, the Tax Office, which was housed in the building annexed to the grand duchy’s railway station, still known today as the “Stazione Leopolda”. This placement, which was totally unsuited to a piece that had been one of the nobilia opera of the grand ducal collection, was mercifully brief. On 20th May 1870, the statue was recorded at the Pitti Palace (AGU, Inventario Oggetti d’Arte di Palazzo Pitti, vol. 2, order number 234), where it was placed in the rooms frescoed by Giovanni da San Giovanni and where H. Dütschke was able to see it, probably in 1873. In a meticulous, articulate description (Dütschke 1875, pp. 25 s.) as well as recording the presence of the current head, the German scholar seemed to find the marble in rather good condition, without anything missing or any deterioration worthy of note. In the 1880s, the placement of the statue was still under discussion, since it was no longer considered a Cleopatra, but rather a sleeping Ariadne. In December 1888, Enrico Ridolfi, Director of the Uffizi in that period (AGU 1888, Galleria degli Uffizi, no. 56) submitted an official request to bring the statue back to the Gallery (in a “new room of ancient sculptures”, which was never created) and to proceed to replace the head by Carradori with the previous one, found in storage at the Bargello by Adriano Milani in 1883 (Milani 1912, p. 313, no. 40). Thus the 16th-century head of Ariadne came to light (inv. MAF 13727; Romualdi 2004, pp. 191 s., no. 77), which was the one greatly admired by Winckelmann. What had happened to the head, after its removal from the rest of the body by Carradori in the period 1788 to 1790, can only be surmised. In all likelihood, this addition remained in storage at the Uffizi until, after 1865, with the establishment of the National Museum of Bargello, the marble, correctly judged to be modern, was transferred together with other pieces of Renaissance or Baroque sculpture in the Gallery, to the new museum. The head remained in storage until it was found by Milani, who considered it to be a work in “neo-Attic style, from the 4th century B.C.” ( Milani 1912, p. 313, no. 40), arranging for a specific study in advance of the guide for 1912 (Milani 1912, p. 313, no. 40), which was never published, perhaps due to the realisation of the modern nature of the marble. Ridolfi was also convinced of the antiquity of the head at the time of sending his letter to the Intendant of the Royal House, and he based his argument for replacing Carradori’s head on this fact. Ridolfi’s wishes were granted only in part. The Ariadne in fact left Pitti Palace early in January 1889 (AGU, Inventario Oggetti d’Arte di Palazzo Pitti, vol. 2, order number 234), but, although it moved through the Uffizi storage, it did not stay there for long and the director’s hoped-for restoration never took place. In the late 19th century, the Ariadne, with her 16th-century head displayed alongside her, was to have been placed under the fifth arch in the garden of Palazzo della Crocetta (Romualdi 2000, p. 16), then home to the Royal Museum of Archaeology for over a decade. This placement, which can be seen in photographs from the early 20th century (Romualdi 2000, p. 18), was yet again a temporary one. From 1929, following the building of the Corridoio del Topografico, linking Palazzo della Crocetta with the Innocenti building and encompassing the arches that had overlooked the garden until that time (Romualdi 2000, pp. 22 s.), the marble statues were moved. The most important works, including the Ariadne, were placed in the Nicchio room at the entrance to the museum and there, they were surprised by the great flood of 1966. The collection of ancient statues, removed from display in view of a radical reordering, was thus placed in storage, first in Palazzo della Crocetta and then, in 1984, in Villa Corsini a Castello, a state-owned property on the outskirts of Florence, and used in those years, to store all of the stone materials from Florence’s Museum of Archaeology (Romualdi 2004, pp. 14 s.). In 2001, Antonella Romualdi, as part of a partial arrangement of the villa as a museum, using the material there in storage, returned the sculpture to public view, placing it in a courtyard off the main room of the baroque villa, directly overlooking the Italian garden. This arrangement, similar to the original Loggia of Villa Medici, lasted until November 2012, when the statue was returned, at my initiative, to the Vasari complex to decorate the centre of the newly refurbished Michelangelo Room, just a short distance from room 41 where, in the late 18th century, Ariadne had spent her brief period in the museum. In January 2018, Ariadne was moved to a ground floor room in the Uffizi.
Drawings, casts and engravings
A small canvas painted by Diego Velásquez during his visit in 1649-1651, now in the Prado Museum, is the oldest depiction of the sculpture (Schröder 2004, p. 396, fig. 88). In spite of the painter’s focus on the architectural setting and of the rapid strokes he uses to show the figure of the Cleopatra, the turn of the head and the position of the right arm are in any case shown with sufficient clarity to identify it with the “Milani Head”, i.e., with the 16th-century addition, now separate from the rest of the statue, but which we will go on to discuss. What is debated, however, is whether the Cleopatra used as a model for the marble replica made by Corneille van Clève for Versailles between 1684 and 1688 is the Vatican or the Medici model (Müller 1935, fig. 5). According to Laviosa, with agreement in more recent literature (Rausa 2000, p. 187), the copy is of the Cleopatra from Villa Medici, but, as indicated by Adrian Sthähli (2001, p. 383, note 11), some details, such as the fringe on the cloak, under the left hip of the woman - found only on the Vatican statue - would seem to point to the use of the Roman model, probably mediated by the bronze copy that Primaticcio made for Francesco I. If the rocky texture of the surface on which the Versailles statue is placed can actually be said to be the result of Primaticcio’s choice to add this to the bronze copy, then along with other details such as the sculptural effect and movement from the folds of the robe between the woman’s feet, there are actual affinities with what we can see on the Florence statue. We might even imagine that van Clève used a combination of ideas from the two Cleopatras on his version for Versaille, since he knew both well, thanks to a lengthy stay in Rome as a guest of the Académie de France. What is definitely based on the Roman copy is the Madrid gesso by Velásquez, from the period of his second visit to Italy (Harris 1981, p. 537). Mention should be made of the small engraving of the sculpture in the work Le statue di Firenze, published before December 1794 (Le statue di Firenze 1790-1794, II, tav. 31), which, due to the angle of the head and the draping over the right arm, demonstrates its depiction of the current head.
Conservation and restoration
A few years on from Winckelmann’s inspection, in 1759, the Medici Cleopatra was part of a reorganisation of the Loggia, and a restoration by Sibilla, which involved the addition of some of the missing fingers (Cecchi-Gasparri 2009, p. 296). In June 1787 (Capecchi-Paoletti 2002, p. 155, doc. VI ), the sculpture was moved to Florence and given to Francesco Carradori for a restoration process that would keep him occupied for a long period. The sculptor sent an order to the quarries in Carrara for a block measuring 2.27 x 1.51 x 0.29 metres needed for the “famous statue of Cleopatra” in September 1788 (Capecchi-Paoletti 2002, p. 169, doc. XXI ). From documents, we know that in February of 1789, not only was this slab delivered - obviously for use as a base for the figure, as can be seen from the measurements - but so was a second marble block of a different type (Capecchi-Paoletti 2002, p. 40, note 172) which we might reasonably think was used for the current head. The fact that the head is by Carradori has been placed in doubt in literature on more than one occasion (Gasparri 1999, p. 168; Stähli 2001, p. 384, no., 15) due to the signature of restorer, Ludovico Colivicchi, , dated 1877 and carved into the rocky base of the sculpture. However, Carradori’s work, which we will discuss further, can be demonstrated by several elements and to this information we can add the report by Tommaso Puccini, sent to Francesco Carradori on 20th December 1797 (AGU, Filza XXVIII (1796-1797, no. 47), in which the Gallery director firmly states the criteria to be followed by the sculptor in the restoration of the Ajax group under the Loggia dei Lanzi. Puccini was strongly opposed to any aesthetic additions in Baroque style, to the extent that he did not hesitate to have them radically removed, as shown in the example of the Venus Victrix (Paolucci 2013, pp. 518 s.). He was also a firm advocate for philological intervention and recommended that the sculptor only began work after studying the other Ajax group in the city, the far better preserved group in the Pitti Palace. According to the director’s report, Carradori should have proceeded by taking casts of the ancient parts of the other copy and faithfully reproduce them on the Loggia statue, avoiding his “unhappy interventions such as the restorations of the Apollo and Cleopatra”. It is utterly reasonable to conclude that the unwarranted restorations to which Puccini refers are not limited to the insertion of the existing marble base, but rather they include an invasive intervention such as the replacement of the head. Between 1788 and 1789, Francesco Carradori carried out significant restoration work on the statue to ensure its stability through the insertion of a marble slab, as well as “updating” the appearance with the addition of a new head, with a markedly pathetic character and theatrical pose, which then replaced the previous 16th-century addition, created using the Vatican copy as a model. The type and extent of the intervention carried out by Ludovico Colivicchi is unknown, although he added the signature “L.o Colivicchi scul. Restored 1877” to the rock on which Ariadne rests her head. The name and activities of Colivicchi, an artist from the Florentine Academy, are shown explicitly in one of his proposals to the Directors of the Galleries, sent in 1875 but rejected, to clean the group of Hercules and Cacus in Piazza della Signoria (AGU 1875, Filza C, Direzione delle Regie Gallerie, ins. 7). Taking into account this previous and established impossibility to refer the replacement of the head or insertion of the marble base slab (both the work of Carradori) to 1877, it is possible that Colivicchi’s work was limited to cleaning the surface and replacing any previous fillers. The restoration, noted in such a grandiloquent fashion was, in actual fact, something that we would now call in-depth maintenance, probably dictated by the aesthetic requirement of adapting the marble’s appearance to its new location in a courtly setting such as the frescoed rooms of Pitti Palace. A similar reconstruction, already conceived by Milani (1912 p. 313), could corroborate this, thanks to photographs from the late 19th century showing the sculpture in the gardens of Palazzo della Crocetta and still with a substantially even colour; this, however, would be lost over the following decades, as can be seen in the reproductions made in the mid-20th century by Clelia Laviosa, due to the fact that the filler had dropped out that seem to date the intervention to 1877. In the summer of 2012, the sculpture underwent maintenance that allowed it to be mapped completely. It also clarified the extent of its antiquity, together with the two distinct stages (16th and 18th centuries) of the numerous additions. A petrographic analysis was also carried out on five samples, taken from Carradori’s head, from the “Milani” head, from the ancient portion of the statue, and from the additions on the lower part of the body that can be referred to the 16th-century restorations, and from the marble base added by Carradori. The resuslts of these analyses, kept in the Restoration Archive of the Uffizi Galleries and examined using mass spectrometry by the Environmental Geology and Geoengineering Institute of the NRC in Rome on behalf of the test laboratory of Dr. Marcello Spampinato, classified the oldest part as being made in Dokimeion marble. Surprisingly, the “Milani” head and the bottom part of the body are also in Dokimeion marble - i.e., the integrations dating back to the 16th century, while the present head and the base are in Apuan marble. Of course the question we should ask here is how 16th-century restorers were able to select Dokimeion marble, which, to the naked eye, is almost indistinguishable from many other fine-grained white marbles, to integrate a fragment of sculpture made in the same marble. In the case of the head, the relatively small size gives credence to the idea that restorers used a part of the statue that could no longer be recovered, following a process that was well known at the time. However, this reconstruction seems difficult to apply in the case of the additions to the lower body, since these are longer than the surviving ancient part.
The dependence of the additions to the Florentine Ariadne according to the model offered by her Vatican sister offers an important post quem in terms of timeframe. The front part of the sandals on the statue now in the Uffizi is a perfect copy of the design we see on the statue in the Vatican, which was given these elements sometime between 1538 and 1540, in a drawing by Francisco de Hollanda, when the statue’s feet are shown in full for the first time. The addition of the head and right arm, the lower body and part of the left arm, the legs, from just below the hips and almost the whole rock on which Ariadne is lying, date back to between the 1540s and 1580s when the statue joined, probably with all additions in place, to the Medici collections. The Florentine restorations therefore, preserve details that in some cases were eliminated from the Vatican statue by Sibilla’s 18th-century interventions. This is probably the case for the rectangular drape of the himation on the front, over the left leg, a point where, on the Vatican statue, we see a semicircular drape due to restoration in the 18th century. Elsewhere, however, it is possible to see greater freedom compared to the model, such as the rendering of the filling on the left thigh or the way in which the folds of the robe drop between the feet, where the fabric takes on a volume and complexity we do not see on the Roman copy.
Important elements for the interpretation of the sculpture’s formal quality and its comparison with the Ariadne in the Vatican come from looking at the parts surviving from antiquity. Clelia Laviosa already pointed out how the Florentine copy offered important clues on the correct position of the body, which is more reclining and set back than on the Roman copy, as well as the nature of the terrain that only seems to be given a rocky appearance on the Florentine version (Laviosa 1958, p. 165). The great care reserved, on the Medici Ariadne, to the depiction of the folds of her chiton and himation has not escaped the attention of scholars. The definition is the same on the back, unlike on the Vatican statue (Wolf 2002, p. 91). Moreover, as rightly noted by C. M. Wolf, it is certain that the old portion of the Uffizi Ariadne’s torso features an accentuated quest for the colouristic aspects of the surfaces, created through the insistent pleating of the chiton and with the indication, in the way the himation drapes over the back of the figure, of smart folds. Also worthy of note is the almost virtuoso workmanship of the drapes, with their undercuts that in some points, such as below the left breast, reach a depth of 5 cm. Overall, it seems difficult to get away from the impression of looking at a replica made with a care and attention that are difficult to see in the Roman copy and which lead us to regret the paucity of the ancient part preserved on the Gallery statue. Some particular features, such as the folds or marked pleating, could in fact be convincingly interpreted as clues to a lectio difficilior, suggesting, for the Florentine copy, the possibility of greater fidelity to the original, thought to be the work of Pergamon craftsmen from the second century B.C. (Romualdi 2004, pp. 189 s., nota 12 ) and shown, as well as the copy in the Vatican and the Prado (Schröder 2004, pp. 392-397, n. 187), by a third copy from Perge (Christine Özgan to be published). This greater adherence to the prototype may also be seen in the hair, styled in a way that is not exactly like the Vatican statue, as demonstrated by the two locks (not the single one of the Roman statue) which, falling over the chest, almost reach the left breast. It is the workmanship of these two locks of hair, separated by deep and continuous drilled grooves and featuring only a few, subtle incisions, seem to echo, rather convincingly, the sculptures of the Antonine age, as comparison with a woman’s head from the Hadrian baths of Aphrodisia which can be dated back to the central decades of the second century, would seem to suggest (Therkildsen 2012, p. 49, fig. 1). This timeframe, which fits well with the convincing comparisons made by Wolf for the execution of the drapes (2002, p. 92), does not even call into question the use of white Dokimeion marble, which was most popular and used, as is well known, in the heart of the second century B.C. (Pensabene 2013, p. 372) .
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