The J. Paul Getty Museum

Bust of Pseudo-Seneca (after the antique)

Object Details


Bust of Pseudo-Seneca (after the antique)


Joseph Wilton (English, 1722 - 1803)




England (Place Created)





Object Number:



61 cm (24 in.)

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Object Description

Long locks of hair fall over the forehead of this figure, but they do not obscure his intense and questioning gaze. It is the gaze of an ancient philosopher and the bust was indeed modeled after a celebrated antique sculpture once identified as Seneca, the first-century Roman philosopher and statesman. The figure's rugged and even unkempt appearance, suggesting a lack of refinement, seems to have provoked the association with Seneca who was born in Spain and perceived in classical Rome as a provincial foreigner.

For art enthusiasts who could not afford the real thing, antique replicas could be acquired from one of many eighteenth-century English sculptors, like Joseph Wilton, who spent time in Italy. The statesman Charles Watson-Wentworth either commissioned this bust directly from Wilton or purchased it from the sculptor's stock. Along with Joseph Nollekens's statues of Venus, Minerva, and Juno, the bust was incorporated into a Neoclassical decorative scheme, perhaps first in Watson-Wentworth's London townhouse and then later in his country house. Both the individual sculptures and the decorative scheme were designed to be expressive of the owner's taste and erudition.

after 1765

Charles Watson-Wentworth, 2nd marquis of Rockingham, English, 1730 - 1782 (London, England), on display in the Grand Floor Center Room in his Grosvenor Square House (London, England), by inheritance to his nephew William Wentworth fourth earl Fitzwilliam
Source: Penny, 1991, p. 20, mentions the 1782 inventory for the location.

probably 1782 - 1986

William Wentworth, 4th earl Fitzwilliam, English, 1748 - 1833 (Wentworth Woodhouse, Yorkshire, England), brought from London to Wentworth Woodhouse between 1782 and 1802, by inheritance within the Wentworth Fitzwilliam family.
Source: The sculpture was seen at Wentworth Woodhouse in 1802 by Richard Warner (Warner, A Tour through..., vol. 1 (1802), pp. 219-20).

1833 - 1986

Wentworth Fitzwilliam Family (Wentworth Woodhouse, Yorkshire, England) [sold, Christie's, London, July 15, 1986, lot 90, to Cyril Humphris]

1986 - 1987

Cyril Humphris, S.A., sold to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1987.


Henry Spencer & Sons, Yorkshire. Important sale of a large portion of the contents of Wentworth Woodhouse, Yorkshire. July 4-9, 1949, p. 33, lot 424, listed as a marble bust of Seneca.

Christie's, London. Important English Marble Statuary, European Sculpture and Works of Art. July 15, 1986, p. 74, lot 90, ill. [as an eighteenth-century Italian or English marble bust of the Pseudo-Seneca, after the antique].

"Acquisitions/1987." The J. Paul Getty Museum Journal 16 (1988), p. 181, no. 80.

Penny, Nicholas. "Lord Rockingham's Sculpture Collection and The Judgment of Paris by Nollekens." The J. Paul Getty Museum Journal 19 (1991), p. 20, fig. 18.

Fusco, Peter. Summary Catalogue of European Sculpture in the J. Paul Getty Museum (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1997), p. 56, ill.