Collection online


  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Description

    Marble statue of a woman wearing a chiton and himation. She holds a pedum, a stick associated with the god Pan. Her body is clearly seen through the thin garments that she wears. The separately carved head is ancient but does not belong with the body. The hair is encircled with a weath of ivy leaves and buds, although most of the leaves are restored. Part of the nose, arms and drapery are also restored. The carving of the back is less detailed than at the front which is meticulously detailed. The statue may have originally represented a young goddess or heroine. The head was perhaps from a statue of a Maenad. The figure is now identified as the Muse of Comedy Thalia, although the original identifications are elusive.


  • Culture/period

  • Date

    • 1stC (torso)
  • Findspot

  • Materials

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 1.82 metres
  • Curator's comments

    The head is ancient, but does not belong with the torso. Part of the surface of the drapery was reworked in the 18th century when the arm was restored.Cook 2013, nr. 183:
    Townley's description; ‘A Statue of Thaleia the pastoral muse, richly draped with the Tunic and an outward loose garment, of so fine a texture that the forms of the body and limbs tho covered, are very apparent; the head is crowned with a wreath of Ivy, and in the right hand is the pedum or pastoral crook. This statue was found at Ostia 1775 near that of Libera, ….. and is 5 feet 10 Inc. high’ (TY 12/3; Chambers, dining room 38).
    Bought from Hamilton for £300 (TY 7/617; TY 10/5; TY 12/1; TY 10/3, fo. 35; ‘Union Catalogue’, fo. 21v), but also recorded by Townley at £400 (TY 10/6-7), perhaps having in mind Hamilton’s original proposal on 12 July 1776 (TY 7/612) and his suggestion of £1000 jointly for this statue and the Venus (1805,0703.15), which eventually cost £600 (TY 7/616, 30 August 1776). Hamilton first mentioned the Thalia in a list of concealed statues that were frankly described as ‘contraband’ (letter dated 12 June 1776, TY 7/611). A month later, he wrote that he had restored the pedum in the right hand, adding ‘the head is one of those made to let into the statue, and the statue made to receive a head of that sort, the head fits it exactly of the same marble’, and the caveat ‘I don’t suppose you will be content with any statue where the subject is not decided by its attributes’ (TY 7/612). On 27 July, Hamilton wrote that he would like Townley to have the Thalia (TY 7/613), but Townley seems to have declined it in a letter (no longer extant) of 9 July or 2 August, both of which Hamilton acknowledged on 21 August (TY 7/614). On 29 August, however, Hamilton acknowledged a letter from Townley dated 8 July, in which he announced his desire to purchase the ‘Pastoral Muse’ (TY7/615). On 4 October, Hamilton sent a Bill of Lading for Thalia, priced at £300 (TY 7/617).

    Restored by Albacini (Vaughan).

    * Townley drawings 2010,5006.89 and 94;
    * Nollekens : B. F. Cook, `The Townley Marbles in Westminster and Bloomsbury’, The British Museum Yearbook, 2 (1977), 46, figs. 28-29, no. 5;
    * Chambers: B. F. Cook, `The Townley Marbles in Westminster and Bloomsbury’, The British Museum Yearbook, 2 (1977), 42-43, figs. 24-25, no. 35;
    * Engravings TY 13/1/92-127 and TY 13/4/1-2.

    - Synopsis of the Contents of the British Museum (1808), IV.5;
    - Ancient Marbles of the British Museum, III, pl. 5;
    - A Guide to the Graeco-Roman Sculptures in the Department of Greek and Roman Antiquities, 2 vols. (London, 1874 [1892] and 1876), I, no. 155;
    - A. H. Smith, A Catalogue of Sculpture in the Department of Greek and Roman Antiquities, British Museum, Vol. III (London 1904), 71, no. 1685;
    - B. F. Cook, The Townley Marbles (London, 1985), 22-3, fig. 21;
    - G. Vaughan, ‘Albacini and his English Patrons’, Journal of the History of Collections 3/2 (1991), 183-197, 188;
    - Lexicon Iconographicum Mythologiae Classicae, VII, 1019 s.v. Mousa, Mousai/Musae no. 54* (Thalia? Calliope?).


  • Bibliography

    • Sculpture 1685 bibliographic details
  • Location

    On display: G36

  • Subjects

  • Associated names

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date


  • Department

    Greek & Roman Antiquities

  • Registration number


Marble statue probably representing Thalia, the muse of comedy.

3/4: Left

Marble statue probably representing Thalia, the muse of comedy.

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Object reference number: GAA8953

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