Roman work of the Augustan age after a Hellenistic model. Inv. Nos. 5620 / 5621 / 5605 / 5604 / 5619.Naples, National Archaeological MuseumPhoto by Sergey Sosnovskiy
Roman work of the Augustan age after a Hellenistic model.
Naples, National Archaeological Museum
(Napoli, Museo archeologico nazionale).
Dancers, Hydrophorai (water carriers) or Danaids
The five bronze statues are part of the statuary of Villa of the Papyri, a luxury villa on the outskirts of Herculaneum (Ercolano), where they were found in 1754.
The group represents five young women standing on the right legs while the left ones are slightly bent and moved away from the bodies. They are dressed in Doric peplos buckled on the shoulders and portrayed in different postures and with different hairstyles. The faces are delicate and animated by the eyes, the corneas of which are made of bone or ivory and the irises and pupils of grey or black stone. Defined erroneously as “dancers” by Winckelmann in the 18th century, the statues were recognized as hydrophorai (water carriers) at the end of the 19th century and finally in the 20th century they were identified as the Danaids, the fifty daughters of Danaus the king of Egypt, condemned to fetch water for eternity after killing their respective husbands who were nothing but their cousins the girls did not want to marry.
They are reproductions related to the Augustan Age (third century BC — last quarter of the first century BC), derived from an original subject of the Classical Age, very popular in the Augustan Age, and reproductions of a similar group which was on exhibition in the temple of Apollo Palatine in Rome in 28 BC.