Cesarini Nile

A bearded man lies semi-recumbent, leaning his left arm on an amphora, on which runs the drapery of his robe, leaving the bust uncovered. The torso, made in basanite, appears to be the only ancient part of the work. In his right hand he is holding a bunch of wheat-ears that allude to the harvest; further spikes are on the crown that surrounds his head, a putto sits on his legs. These iconographic motifs identify the work as the personification of the Nile, a beneficial river that gives fertile ground for crops and is a symbol of abundance. Oval-shaped hollows on the groin of the divinity allude to the presence of further putti, which confirm the identification of the work as Nile. In traditional iconography the river god was usually depicted with sixteen putti symbolizing the sixteen cubits of the ideal rise of the river during the flood season. Model for the replicas of the river divinity is the prototype made in Alexandria in the second century BC which enjoyed considerable success in the imperial age.

Inventory: MT 434

Material: Body in basanite; head in ancient black marble, gray marble for the modern integrations

Technique: Work sculpted through the use of: chisels (also square-tipped and toothed) rasps

Dating: Imperial age

Origin: Formerly Cesarini collection; by 1822 at Palazzo Torlonia in Piazza Venezia; brought to Museum on Via della Lungara by 1876.