The Ludovisi Throne

In the series of great sculptures in Rome, another of my favourites is the Ludovisi Throne in the national museum of Palazzo Altemps. In this palace near Piazza Navona,  is exhibited the collection of antique sculptures which was part of the Ludovisi estate, probably the most beautiful park and villa in Rome in the 18th and 19th century. The villa was unfortunately sold off at the end of the 19th century to develop the modern neighbourhood of via Veneto, while the amazing art collection of the Ludovisi family was purchased by the Italian State in 1894.

Front panel of the Ludovisi throne

The meaning of the Ludovisi throne is debated. For some, it represents the birth of Venus (or Aphrodite), coming out of the sea, and was used for the cult of the goddess. Meanwhile, for other scholars who compared it with reliefs and terracottas from Magna Grecia, it shows Proserpine (or Persefone in Greek) coming back from inferno to bring back spring on earth. They date it back to the 5th century BC. On the left side of the throne is carved a representation of a young woman burning incense, while on the right side is a young nude playing the flute, the two figures supposedly representing sacred and profane love. The sculpture was found in the Horti Sallustiani, where the Dying Gaul had been found earlier. I personally find it quite modern in appearance and composition, almost out of the Art Nouveau style of the 1930s.

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