- Museum number
Marble head from a statue of Jupiter Serapis, wearing a kalathos (basket used in religious processions) decorated with branches of olive. The bust is modern. The face was originally coloured red.
- Production date
Height: 59 centimetres
Weight: 50 kilograms (estimate)
Width: 31 centimetres
Depth: 33 centimetres
- Curator's comments
Bust of Jupiter Serapis
Jupiter Serapis is identified by the corn-measure (modius) on the head, as worn in Greek religious processions; in the eighteenth century it was interpreted by Townley and his circle as a mystic symbol representing the seed-vessel of the lotus, thereby alluding to the reproductive power of nature. It would appear that Gavin Hamilton acquired the bust through the trade in Rome, and we have it from Townley himself (see his manuscript catalogue in the Department of Greek and Roman Antiquities, British Museum) that 'Francesco' Cavaceppi was responsible for its restoration. S. Howard regards the reference to 'Francesco' rather than to 'Bartolomeo' as merely an error on Townley's part.
The bust is notable for the traces of original red paint still discernible on it. Townley wrote that when first found the whole face was stained a deep red colour, but that 'Francesco' Cavaceppi '. . . an ignorant Sculptor, used every means to expunge the red colour by the spirit of salt and acquafortis'. It can be presumed that he was also responsible for the restoration of the base and bust, which are deliberately pitted, better to match the weathered surface of the antique head. There can be no suggestion that an astute collector like Townley was unaware of the modern component, and this would appear to be a straightforward case of a restorer 'faking' for the sake of visual homogeneity. It is ironic that in attempting to render the bust acceptable to modern taste - which above all admired the whiteness of antique marble - the restorer attempted to remove the very quality which guaranteed its authenticity. (On colouring the face of Jupiter see Pliny 'Hist. Nat.', XXXIII, 7,36.).
Literature: A. H. Smith, A Catalogue of Sculpture in the Department of Greek and Roman Antiquities. British Museum III, London 1904, p. 4; S. Howard, Bartolomeo Cavaceppi, eighteenth-century restorer. PhD Thesis 1958, Chicago 1980, p. 74; B. Cook, The Townley Marbles, London, 1958, pp. 22, 24
Cook 2013, nr. 178:
Townley's description; ‘A head of Jupiter Serapis, the size of life; it has the modius on the sides of which are the usual fig trees; the face anciently had been painted’ (TY 12/3; Chambers, dining room 42). In the Towneley Hall copy, a note in Townley’s hand changes ‘the modius’ to ‘the mystical cista’. In the First Townley Inventory (head 23), Townley added: ‘the massy locks of hair hang over the forehead and it has the usual morose countenance given to this Catacthonius or Infernal Jupiter’.
Bought from Hamilton in 1776 for $20 (TY 7/610), although the price was variously recorded by Townley as £29 (TY 10/3, fo. 34; ‘Union Catalogue’, fo. 21v), £30 (TY 10/5; TY 12/1; TY 10/7), and £40 (TY 10/6). The head was first mentioned by Hamilton in a letter dated 17 August 1775 (TY 7/593). On 7 October, Hamilton added that the body was still to be found at Ostia (TY 7/596). On 30 October, Townley replied that he wanted the head, even if the body was not found (TY 7/597/2). Hamilton reported on 30 December 1775 that the search for the body was continuing (TY 7/601), but the search eventually proved fruitless and the head was shipped from Rome on 27 May 1776 (TY 7/610).
Townley noted that ‘when it was found 1775 the face was stained of a deep red colour, but the first owners of this marble being ignorant of the mythological reasons of the ancients for giving these red and dark colours to this and some others of their Deities, did their utmost to remove this curious tint, which if left had rendered this marble more interesting; a strong shade of it however is still very visible’ (First Townley Inventory, head 23). In TY 12/6 and the 1804 Parlour Catalogue, this cleaning is assigned to Cavaceppi, although it is not mentioned in the correspondence from Hamilton. Cavaceppi is alleged to have used both spirit of salt (hydrochloric acid) and aqua fortis (nitric acid).
* Townley drawings 2010,5006.126, attributed to Chambers (by I.D. Jenkins; perhaps in error, since a note in pencil on the mount reads ‘En marbre de grandeur naturelle chez Mr Townley’), 2010,5006.208, and 2010,5006.217;
* Nollekens : B. F. Cook, `The Townley Marbles in Westminster and Bloomsbury’, The British Museum Yearbook, 2 (1977), 46, figs. 28-29, no. 11;
* Chambers: B. F. Cook, `The Townley Marbles in Westminster and Bloomsbury’, The British Museum Yearbook, 2 (1977), 42-43, figs. 24-25, no. 41.
- Synopsis of the Contents of the British Museum (1808), VI.99;
- Ancient Marbles of the British Museum, X, pl. 2;
- A Guide to the Graeco-Roman Sculptures in the Department of Greek and Roman Antiquities, 2 vols. (London, 1874  and 1876), I, no. 131;
- A. H. Smith, A Catalogue of Sculpture in the Department of Greek and Roman Antiquities, British Museum, Vol. III (London 1904), 4, no. 1525;
- W. Hornbostel, Sarapis. Studien zur Überlieferungsgeschichte den
Erscheinungsformen und Wandlungen der Gestalt eines Gottes. EPRO 32 (Leiden, 1973), 231, fig. 193;
- B. Birquist, ‘A Head of Serapis’, Boreas 9 (Uppsala, 1978), 87-137, 101, no. 618;
- S. Howard, Bartolomeo Cavaceppi, eighteenth-century restorer (PhD thesis 1958; Chicago, 1980), 264, no. 4, figs. 168-9;
- J. J. Pollitt, Art in the Hellenistic Age (Cambridge, 1986), 279-80 (for the type: refs on 294 [5d] and 310 [III.3]);
- B. F. Cook, The Townley Marbles (London, 1985), 22-3, fig. 23.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
2017-2018 19 Oct-18 Feb, Oxford, Ashmolean Museum, Imagining the divine: Art and the Rise of the World Religions
- Acquisition date
- Greek and Roman
- Registration number