Wednesday, December 28, 2016

283. Julia Domna Stolen and Found

Recently, Julia Domna was in the news.

In May of this year, Christie's in Amsterdam was offered for sale a statue with the head of Julia Domna. As the experts were suspicious, the firm's lawyer contacted the Art Squad of the Italian police, and it was found out that the statue was stolen from Hadrian's villa in Tivoli, probably after the last time it had been on display in 2012. Earlier in December, it has been returned by the Dutch police. Amsterdam police say two people were arrested and charged with theft and trying to sell the sculpture.

The History Blog reported on this, and published a few images of the statue.

Julia Domna, 2nd C. (Hadrian's Villa)
The History Blog wrote:

The auction house cooperated with the investigation, suspending the sale so the Art Squad and the Dutch police could work together to research the head. In addition to confirming the true origin of the object, the joint investigation identified two Dutch citizens who were illegally in possession of the statue head. Armed with all the evidence, the police confiscated the portrait and returned it to representatives of the Carabinieri Art Squad. It will be kept with authorities in Rome while the legal case proceeds. When it’s all over, Julia Domna will go back to Hadrian’s Villa with all her family members.

The Vale Press published Michael Field's play about Julia Domna in 1903. It contained an illustrated border page with the beginning of the text, but no illustration of Julia Domna herself. Ricketts rarely did the obvious thing.

However, there are two other women on this border page.

Charles Ricketts, 'Vesta', in Michael Field, Julia Domna (1903)
The first one is the goddess Vesta, a statue of Vesta in her temple, veiled, and her eyes closed.

The second one is Medusa, with snakes in her hair and around her neck.

Charles Ricketts, 'Medusa', in Michael Field, Julia Domna (1903)
Ricketts has followed the traditional iconography of Medusa, but his rendering of Vesta is less conventional, including some oval shaped clouds and a monumental background that looks like a stage set. Apparently, Ricketts thought it necessary to include her name in the illustration. The name has been written on a banner, although there are only four letters, not five, as the T and A have been drawn as a ligature.