Lemnian Athena

The Lemnian Athena was a classical Greek statue of the goddess Athena. According to geographer Pausanias , the original bronze cast was created by the sculptor Phidias circa 450–440 BCE, for Athenians living on the island of Lemnos to dedicate on the Acropolis of Athens.

It is unclear whether any copies survived. In 1891, German archaeologist Adolf Furtwängler reconstructed two virtually identical Roman marble statues which he claimed were copies of the original, and identified two Roman marble copies of the head alone. These completed statues were recreated by joining a poorly preserved marble head (kept at Dresden) and a plaster cast of a similar Roman marble head, from the collection of Pelagio Palagi in Bologna, to a pair of identical bodies in Dresden. However, both reconstructions and attributions have been disputed.


The sculptures concerned are:

Two full reconstructions  in the Staatliche Museum, Albertinum, Dresden, with bodies purchased in 1728 from the Chigi collection, Rome, Italy.
The Palagi head at the Archaeological Museum of Bologna, Italy. (Below)
Anoter head of this type, found at Pozzuoli, is conserved in the Archaeological Museum of the Campi Phlegraei.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                Archaeological Museum of Bologna, Italy.

The head of Athena in Pentelic marble is the masterpiece of the Palagi Collection. It is a Roman copy of the lost bronze statue of the goddess, which was commissioned from Phidias between 451 and 447 BC by a group of Athenian citizens preparing to found a colony on the Aegean island of Lemnos. The statue, thus dubbed “Lemnia”, was placed on the Acropolis in Athens as a votive offering to ensure the protection of the goddess, “patroness” of the city, during the establishment of the new colony.
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Phidias depicted the goddess – usually portrayed bearing weapons and ready for battle – in a peaceful pose, dressed in a tunic and mantle; she is leaning on her lance and is holding her helmet in her right hand. The statue, the pacific symbol of the supremacy of thought that fully interpreted the spirit of Periclean Athens, enjoyed enormous fame in antiquity and was admired for its message and beauty.

The bronze original has been lost, but its appearance has been reconstructed based on several replicas from the Roman period. This copy, attributed to a Greek sculptor active in the age of Augustus (late 1st century BC–early 1st century AD), seems to reflect Phidias’ original quite faithfully and is unquestionably the finest extant copy, renowned for its beauty and artistic quality

Provenance: Palagi Collection
Datation: Late 1st century BC–early 1st century AD
Material: Marble
Dimensions: height cm 43
Inventory #: G 1060

Twice we traveled to Bologna specifically to see the sculpture of Athena. The first time the Archaeological Museum was closed for repairs, but three years later we managed to get in. It was worth the wait. I was so impressed (but no A.O.)  that I ordered a copy from an art reproduction company and placed the goddess in a prominent place in our living room. 



Once a visitor asked what a  mannequin head was doing there. I replied, "Looking out the window." .... thus reinforcing my country neighbors suspicion of my strangeness.