Collection online


  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Title (object)

    • Clytie/Antonia
  • Description

    Marble portrait bust of a woman, possibly the younger Antonia. Long identified as the nymph Clytie.

  • Culture/period

  • Date

    • 40-50 (circa)
  • Findspot

  • Materials

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 57.15 centimetres
  • Curator's comments

    Probably recut in the 18th century.Jones 1990
    Purchased in Naples in 1772 from the Principe di Laurenzano, and known as 'Clytie' after the nymph turned into a flower for unrequited love of the sun-god Helios, this bust became Townley's favourite sculpture; it was the only marble he took with him when forced to flee his house during the Gordon Riots of 1780.
    The name, if inaccurate, is suitably romantic. It is difficult to reconcile the subject's sensual appearance with its modern identification as the younger Antonia (36 BC-AD 38), daughter of Mark Antony and mother of the Emperor Claudius. Jucker's publication of the bust in 1961, enthusiastically endorsing a Claudian date, was much criticised. Several scholars have since claimed 'Clytie' as an eighteenth-century rococo work.
    The marble is probably Parian, and if so it must have been quarried in antiquity, since the underground quarries were not again worked until the nineteenth century. The finish on the underside of the lotus leaves, which retain traces of encrustation, also speaks for an ancient origin. However, it is likely that much of the surface of the portrait was reworked to enhance its erotic appeal. The model for this transformation of Roman matron to nymph may have been the 'Flora Farnese', a colossal restored figure celebrated from the sixteenth to the late eighteenth centuries for its erotic associations.
    Originally the subject may have worn a heavier and less revealing tunic, such as that worn by an unknown Neronian woman, portrayed in a marble bust now in Sir John Soane's Museum, London. Doubted by those who would have 'Clytie' a forgery, this portrait resembles the more extravagant representations of women at the courts of Caligula, Claudius and Nero.
    The extent to which its transformation enhanced 'Clytie's' appeal is demonstrated by its appearance in gems, some of which may have been engraved before 1774 while the portrait was still in Italy, in cameos produced in the 1850s and 1860s, in G. F. Watts's unclothed marble version of 1867, in porcelain figures made by the firm of Copeland from 1855, and in the popular British Museum replicas on sale today.

    Literature: H. Jucker, 'Das Bildnis im Blätterkelch', Basel 1961, pp. 64-7, no. St. 1; H. Ost, 'Falsche Frauen', Cologne 1984, passim; B. F. Cook, 'The Townley Marbles', London 1985, p. 15.Cook 2013, nr. 70:
    Townley's description; ‘A woman of the greatest beauty and perfection of form, placed in the cup of the flower of the Nymphaea kind – the Tamara or Water lily’ (The first Townley Inventory, Bust 9).
    Townley elsewhere identified the flower as a sunflower (TY 10/6-8; TY 12/1; 'Union Catalogue', fo. 18r), and his identification of the woman changed over the years. In his account book (TY 8/4/1) she appears as Agrippina, and she was shipped to London under that name (TY 9/3). By about 1781 ('Union Catalogue', fo. 56r) she had been identified as Clytie, who pined away for love of the sun-god and was changed into a flower ‘very like a violet’ (Ovid, Metamorphoses iv 256-70). Townley’s use of the term ‘sunflower’ is evidently a reference to Clytie’s unrequited love, but the sculpture does not resemble the Helianthus, which is in any case, as Smith pointed out, an American species. The identification as Clytie survived into the early 1780s. In the 'Union Catlaogue' (fo. 18r, probably transcribed from TY 8/4) the description ‘A female Bust like an Agrippina ending in a Sun flower’ has an insert ‘representing Clytie’, but in TY 10/3 (fo. 7) Townley identifies the bust as ‘the Libera or female Bacchus’. In the parlour catalogues, beginning with the ‘L’ Catalogue (TY 12/3) about 1787-8, Townley described the bust as ‘Isis in the flower of the Lotus’. In April 1792 he insisted on this identification in letters to the engraver Nathaniel Marchant and the collector Clayton Mordaunt Cracherode (Folder of notes by CT for a catalogue, and letters from 1792-3). Modern scholars usually see the head as a portrait, perhaps of Antonia, the daughter of Mark Antony.
    The antiquity of the bust has been questioned. The mistake is easily made, especially by those working only from photographs. Autopsy, however, especially of the underside of the leaves at the back of the bust, reveals traces of incrustation that have not been removed by the restorer. As noted independently by Walker, these traces confirm the antiquity of the piece. It has, however, been overcleaned and perhaps reworked in the eighteenth century, almost certainly before Townley acquired it. A damaged leaf was restored by Angellini in 1777 (payment on 10 September, 'Union Catalogue', fo. 56r). Smith also records repair to the left ear: I have found no record of when this was done.
    Said to have been found near Naples (The first Townley inventory, cited by Smith), but this may have merely been an inference from the place of purchase (Jucker, Bildnis 64). Believed to have been for many years in the possession of the Laurenzano family (1804 Parlour Catalogue).
    Bought at Naples from Don Onorato Gaetani d’Aragna on 19 July 1772 for 500 Ducats (TY 8/4), rendered by Townley as £98 in TY 10/3 (fo. 7), rounded up to £100 in ST 1 (fo. 18r). Here the seller is described as the nephew of Principe Laurenzano. Townley later recorded the purchase as direct from the Principe himself (TY 10/8, 1804 Parlour Catalogue, Notes on the deposition of the mables in CT's house; Smith repeated this from 1804 Parlour Catalogue). On 24 July 1772 Jenkins wrote to Townley that he had himself been negotiating to buy the bust on behalf of Lyde Browne, but his offer of 100 Sequins had not been accepted (TY 7/312). By the time that Browne had agreed to an increased offer, Townley had acquired the bust (TY 7/313, 14 August 1772). On 25 September Jenkins reported Browne’s disappointment (TY 7/315). The amount of Browne’s increased offer is not recorded, but his first offer was barely equivalent to half the amount paid by Townley. Shipped on "Lovely Betsy" from Naples, arriving in London by 11 February 1773 (TY 9/2/5). Valued for Customs at £3, on which the duty paid amounted to 19s. 6d. (TY 9/3).
    Dallaway reported that during the Gordon riots in 1780 the bust was removed by Townley himself from his house in Park Street, but this may be doubted: it would have probably been beyond the ability of a man of Townley’s slender build to carry the bust down a long curving staircase, out of the house, and into his carriage. Dallaway is not reliable in matters of detail: he is vague or positively inaccurate on the dates of Townley’s visits to Rome, and his tale of a hurried journey in 1791 to observe an excavation in Hadrian’s Villa is discredited by Townley’s correspondence with Jenkins for the period. The story concerning ‘Clytie’ is likely to be equally apocryphal.

    * Townley drawings 2010,5006.127 (annotated ‘Metz del.’), 2010,5006.163 (annotated ‘Riley del.’), 2010,5006.164-166 (attributed by Ian Jenkins to the ‘Clytie draughtsman’), 2010,5006.148, and 2010,5006.147.
    * Zoffany: B. F. Cook, `The Townley Marbles in Westminster and Bloomsbury', The British Museum Yearbook, 2 (1977), 36-37, figs. 19-20, no. 20.
    * Etching by C. Townley, for which Townley paid his namesake £2.2s. on 27 October 1785 (TY 8/5/1).

    Antonia? (Hinks). AD 40-60 (Walker)

    - Synopsis of the Contents of the British Museum (1808) X.35.
    - J. Dallaway in Illustrations of the Literary History of the Eighteenth Century, III (1818), 733.
    - A Guide to the Graeco-Roman Sculptures in the Department of Greek and Roman Antiquities (Synopsis of the Contents of the British Museum) (2 vols., London 1874 [2nd ed. 1879] and 1876), I, no. 149.
    - A. H. Smith, A Catalogue of Sculpture in the Department of Greek and Roman Antiquities, British Museum, Vol. III (London 1904), 147-9, no.1874, pl. 14.
    - R. P. Hinks, Greek and Roman Portrait Sculpture (London 1935), 23, pl. 25.
    - H. Jucker, Das Bildnis im Blätterkelch (Basel 1961), 64-7, no. St. 1 (bibl.).
    - E. Paul, Gefälschte Antike von der Renaissance bis zur Gegenwart (Leipzig 1981), 76, 101-2, fig. 63.
    - H. Ost, Falsche Frauen (Cologne 1984), passim figs. 15-19 and 49.
    - B. F. Cook, Greek and Roman Art in the British Museum (London 1976), 181, fig. 144.
    - B. F. Cook, The Townley Marbles (London 1985), 15, fig. 9.
    - Klaus Fittschen, et al., Verzeichnis der Gipsabgüsse des Archäologischen Instituts der Georg-August-Universität Göttingen (Göttingen 1990), 239 A 1279 (bibl.).
    - M. Jones, ed., Fake? The Art of Deception (Exhibition Catalogue, London 1990), 32-3, no. 3 (Walker).
    - Susan Walker, Roman Art (London 1991), 19, fig. 33.


  • Bibliography

    • Sculpture 1874 bibliographic details
    • Jones 1990a 3 bibliographic details
  • Location

    On display: G1/od/nr41

  • Exhibition history


    1990, 24 Mar-10 Jun, Australia, Canberra, National Gallery of Australia, Civilization: Ancient Treasures from the British Museum, cat. no.90
    1990, 28 Jun-23 Sep, Australia, Melbourne, Museum of Victoria, Civilization: Ancient Treasures from the British Museum, cat. no.90

  • Associated names

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date


  • Department

    Greek & Roman Antiquities

  • Registration number


COMPASS Title: Marble bust of 'Clytie'

COMPASS Title: Marble bust of 'Clytie'

Image description



If you’ve noticed a mistake or have any further information about this object, please email: 

View open data for this object with SPARQL endpoint

Object reference number: GAA8710

British Museum collection data is also available in the W3C open data standard, RDF, allowing it to join and relate to a growing body of linked data published by organisations around the world.

View this object

Support the Museum:
donate online

The Museum makes its collection database available to be used by scholars around the world. Donations will help support curatorial, documentation and digitisation projects.

About the database

The British Museum collection database is a work in progress. New records, updates and images are added every week.

More about the database 


Work on this database is supported by a range of sponsors, donors and volunteers.

More about supporters and how you
can help