Drusilla, the sister of Caligula? (Agrippina the Younger?)

Fragment of the statue. Marble.
Height of the head 0,25 m.
Inv. No. 9952.

Rome, Vatican Museums, Gregorian Profane Museum
(Musei Vaticani, Museo gregoriano profano)

Found in Caere in 1840.
The second group of sculptures does not resemble the Providence-Schloss Fasanerie type closely enough to represent the same individual. It bears a strong family resemblance to that type, however, and must also represent a woman of empire-wide prominence, since there are two exact replicas probably of Italian provenance (figs. 15-17 and 18-19), and two more slightly simplified copies from far-flung provinces, one from North Africa (figs. 20-21) and the other from Spain (figs. 22-23). In these last two cases, the minor changes in the coiffure appear to be the result of copying and recopying by provincial artisans who have seen neither their subject nor the original prototype. One more artistically excellent replica, probably of city-Roman origin, modifies the prototype in a far more deliberate manner in order to idealize the face, probably after the deification of the subject. Of the four replicas that appear to date to her lifetime, three show clear signs of recutting, designed in every case to add an attribute to the head: the beaded band that encircles the crown and hangs in long strands on each side of the neck. The addition of this infula ai some point after the manufacture must indicate some dramatic change in the woman’s status, most probably her deification. This portrait type, then, would logically represent Drusilla.

The most complete object in this group, and one of the finest, is a slightly over-life-size statue (figs. 15-17) discovered in 1840 in the ruins of the theater at Caere, along with several other statues of Julio-Claudian imperial figures, and some inscriptions that attest to the existence of an imperial family group in or near the theater60. The body follows a Classical Creek model, but the head has Julio-Claudian portrait features and a coiffure almost identical to that of the Providence-Schloss Fasanerie type, differing only in the two tightly coiled corkscrew curls that originally hung on each side of the neck. Although one curl on each side was recut at some time in antiquity, and although most of these curls have now broken away, the stumps of original marble are visible, emerging from below the waves of the coiffure just behind the ears and dangling onto the shoulders61. The woman’s face (figs. 16-17) also differs from the Providence-Schloss Fasanerie type, and from all subsequent portraits of Agrippina the Younger, in the fleshy, almost pudgy cheeks and soft, full-lipped mouth. She too has an overbite, but it is less pronounced, the angle between lower lip and chin less sharp, and the point of the chin larger and more rounded. In frontal view, the facial expression invariably appears more relaxed, and the lips less tightly pursed, than those of the Providence-Schloss Fasanerie type.

Trillmich identifies this and several related works as variants on the Providence-Schloss-Fasanerie type, which copyists of the time of Claudius adapted to portray Agrippina the Younger with badges of her new, more important status, such as the infula62. Liverani, pointing out traces of reworking on the shoulders and neck, suggests that the Caere statue originally represented Messalina and was recut into a likeness of her successor, which might explain why it does not strictly conform to Agrippina’s iconography63. 1 find it unlikely, however, that copyists would have modified distinctively individual traits like the shape of the lips and chin that are repeated so consistently in all Agrippina’s other portraits. Mandibular retrognathia is a condition that, when orthodonia is not available, will become more rather than less pronounced with age. Even in a recut image, full lips and a large, rounded chin could easily be cut down into thin lips, a retreating lower lip, and small chin: these features appear in at least one image of Agrippina, the statue in Naples, that clearly is recut, probably from a portrait of Messalina64. The reworking of the Caere statue probably indicates instead that the statue was modified to add the infula.

Since this attribute has considerable significance for the status of its subject, let us briefly consider its form: it consists of a thick strand, probably of wool, strung at regular intervals with small beads that cinch in the fiber to produce a pattern of alternating long ovals and small spheres. In works that show the back of the wearer’s head as well as the front (e.g., fig. 25), the band completely encircles the head, with two long, dangling ends that either emerge from a knot at the back or are attached on each side, falling along each side of the wearer’s neck. The “Juno Ludovisi”, sometimes identified as a highly idealised Antonia Minor, wears a particularly clear example of such headgear65. When the band appears in connection with a crescent diadem, as in the portrait in Munich (figs. 24-26), the fillet sometimes vanishes under the diadem toward the back of the head, but it clearly must encircle the head, since the dangling ends, the stumps of which still appear on the shoulders, must have emerged from the knot at the base of the skull {fig. 26). When the attribute appears with a veil, as it does in many cases including the statue of a priestess from Pompeii, now in Naples, the arrangement at the back of the head is of course invisible, but the sculptor takes pains to represent the hanging ends, which in these cases often appear to be attached to the sides of the circlet rather than to emerge from behind the head66.

In the Caere statue, however, the band has a very peculiar arrangement: it crosses the crown in front and curves toward the back, but instead of encircling the head, turns downward just behind the ears to form the hanging fillets. No fabric band could stay in this position unless fastened with hidden hairpins. The sculptors who reworked this portrait, then, were probably forced to carve the band from the rear edge of the area of crimped waves around the face, which rise in somewhat higher relief than the hair at the back of the head and therefore provided enough marble for recutting, and from the corkscrew curls that originally hung down the neck behind the ears. A stump still recognizable as a corkscrew curl is visible on the proper left side of the statue, while the beaded band, cut in notably lower and flatter relief, hangs down the neck behind it.


60 Vatican. Museo Gregoriano Profano, inv. 9952. Ht. 2.04 m, of head 0.25 m. Forearms, nose, left ear, part of chin and upper lip, fragments of costume, and hanging locks alongside neck missing, formerly restored in plaster, restorations now removed. Caere 2. 3. 6-7, 76-79 no. 8. 120-21. figs. 4. 65-72, 132-35; Giuliano (supra n. 41) 29. no. 32, with earlier literature, pls. 20-121 (for information about the group and the inscriptions, pp. 22-23); Boschung 68-69, figs. 53-54; Helbig4 I, 755 no. 1050 (H. von Heinze); Polaschek 1973, 26-27, pl. 11.1,14.1, 16.1; M. Bieber, Ancient Copies (New York 1977) 122, figs. 544-45; B. Vierneisel-Schlörb. Glyptotek München, Katalog der Skulpturen 2: Klassische Skulpturen des 5. und 4. Jahrhunderts v. Chr. (Munich 1979) 163-64 no. 15.

61 Trillmich 1983, 35 asserts that “keiner dieser Köpfe Halslocken trägt, wie gelegentlich falsch restauriert oder beschrieben. Vielmehr fällt seitlich am Hals die Wollbind herab und zwar in zwei Enden, die auf die Schulter herabhängen und in einigen Fällen eine dort aufliegended Schlaufe bilden”. I must cordially disagree with this one point: the curls of the Caere statue were formerly restored in plaster, now removed, but the marble stumps of the curls, clearly emerging from the coiffure, are original. One curl on each side was later recut to form the hanging end of an infula, but the others are still recognizable as curled locks of hair.

62 Trillmich 1983, 36.

63 P. Liverani, in Caere 2, 121, and “Rilavorazioni antiche e moderne su sculture dei Musei Vaticani,” RendPomtAcc 63 (1990-1991) 165-67.

64 Naples, Museo Nazionale inv. 6242. A Ruesch, Guida illustrata del Museo Nazionale di Napoli (Naples 1908) 18 no. 63; F. Poulsen. Porträtstudien in norditalienischen Provinzmuseen (Copenhagen 1928) 39, pl. 51, fig. 86; L. Furnée van Zwet, “Fashion in Women’s Hairdress in the First Century of the Roman Empire”, BABesch 31 (1956) 21, 22, fig. 38; C. Hafner, Späthellenistische Bildnisplaslik (Berlin 1951) 55 no. NK 15; S. Fuchs, “Neue Frauenbildnisse der frühen Kaiserzeit”, Die Antike 14 (1938) 269-71, figs. 12-14. The drill holes in the waves around the face strongly suggest that the hair was cut down, probably from an earlier portrait that had ringlets around the face.
The type represented by the Naples statue exists in at least one other replica, in Parma, inv. 1870 no. 146, inv. 1952 no. 830, from the Velleia group. The context in which the latter work was found establishes its identity as Agrippina the Younger beyond serious doubt, and it too is probably an adaptation of an earlier statue of Messalina, but in this case the entire original head was removed and replaced. Saletti (supra n. 41) 26-30 no, 2, 120-22. pls. 3-6. On the Naples-Parma type, Fittschen-Zanker 3. 6-7 n. 4.

65 Juno Ludovisi: A. Giuliano ed.. La collezione Boncompagni Ludovizi (Venice 1992) 122-27, no. 10. s.v. Hera Ludovisi (A. Costantini) with earlier literature; A. Rumpf, “Antonia Augusta”, AbhBerl 5 (1941) 3-35, pl. 1; Helbig4 III, 263-64 no. 2341 (H. von Heintze); H. von Heintze, Iuno Ludovisi (Opus Nobile 4. Hannover 1957). On controversy about identification, see Kreikenbom (supra n. 17) 92. n. 730; R. Tölle-Kastenbein, “Juno Ludovisi: Hera oder Antonia Minor?” AM 89 (1974) 241-53; K. Polaschek, Studien zur Ikonographie der Antonia Minor (Rome 1973) 34-37.

66 Naples, Museo Nazionale di Archeologia, inv. 6041. Rumpf (supra n. 65) 22 no 2, with literature, pl. 2c. This statue has sometimes been erroneously identified as Livia, but does not appear to match official types of any imperial woman and probably represents a private citizen.

(ńń) 2009. Photo: Olga Lyubimova (CC BY-SA 4.0).
© 1995. Text: Susan Wood. «Diva Drusilla Panthea and the Sisters of Caligula». American Journal of Archaeology, Vol. 99, No. 3 (Jul., 1995), pp. 471—475.

Keywords: marble marmor marmo testa ritratto femminile woman Iulia Julia Drusilla g182 roman empress Iulia Julia Agrippina Minor Younger Julio-Claudian dynasty dinastia giulio-claudia Julii-Claudii female hairstyle diadem crown infula from Veii Inv No 9952