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Identification and Creation
Object Number
Wall Painting Fragment with Female Figure
Work Type
wall painting fragment(s)
1st century CE
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World
Roman Imperial period
Persistent Link
Physical Descriptions
Pigment on plaster
Fresco painting
actual: 7 x 8 cm (2 3/4 x 3 1/8 in.)
Fausto Benedetti, Rome (by 1925), gift; to the Fogg Museum of Art, 1925.
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Gift of Fausto Benedetti
Accession Year
Object Number
Asian and Mediterranean Art
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This fragment depicts the upper torso and head of a nude female figure on a plain red ground. The figure is in 3/4 profile with her torso facing front and her head turned to the right. A purple himation drapes off of her left shoulder and billows behind her back, an indication of her movement through space. Pink and white pigments model her fleshy abdomen, breasts, and face while an earthy ochre constitutes her hair, formed into a low chignon.

This type of small, floating female can be found in other paintings of the first century CE where such small figures are represented as central vignettes on large fields of flat color (e.g., white, red, black, yellow). The floating figures appear to dance or twirl due to their swirling garments.

In some instances, such female figures carry an instrument or thyrsus and are accompanied by satyrs suggesting their association with Dionysus and identification as maenads (1). Other examples carry specific attributes that identify them as Seasons or other mythological figures (2).

1. For example, a series of maenads in a panel from the Villa of Cicero, Pompeii in the Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli, inv. 9297: F.L. Bastet and M. De Vos, Proposta per una classificazione del terzo stile pompeiano, (Roma) 1979, no. 70.

2. Compare to the figures from the Villa di Arianna at Stabiae, cubiculum W26, specifically the figure of Leda who wears a similar purple garment, Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli, inv. 9243. See also Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli inv. 8940.

Exhibition History

Roman Gallery Installation (long-term), Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 09/16/1999 - 01/20/2008

32Q: 3620 University Study Gallery, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 01/20/2018 - 05/06/2018

Subjects and Contexts

Roman Domestic Art

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of Asian and Mediterranean Art at