The J. Paul Getty Museum

Statue of a Seated Cybele with the Portrait Head of her Priestess

Object Details


Statue of a Seated Cybele with the Portrait Head of her Priestess






Roman Empire (Place Created)


about A.D. 50



Object Number:



162 × 70 × 64.5 cm (63 3/4 × 27 9/16 × 25 3/8 in.)

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Object Description

Found in Rome in the 1500s, this large statue of a seated woman portrays Cybele, the mother goddess, with many of her attributes, each signifying a different role. She wears a crown in the form of a towered wall, a symbol of her role as protectress of cities. Her right hand holds a bunch of wheat and poppy heads, a symbol of her role as a goddess of agriculture. Her most famous attribute, the lion, sits at her feet, symbolizing her power over wild animals. Under her left arm she holds additional symbols: the rudder and the cornucopia.

This statue's most unusual feature is its face, which belongs to an older Roman matron, not an idealized goddess. Wealthy Roman women would frequently commission portraits of themselves depicted as if they were goddesses. Cybele is an unusual choice, however, which may indicate that this woman was a priestess in the goddess's service.

Cybele's cult was introduced to Rome in 204 B.C. from its home in the Near East. Worship in the cult included ritual flagellation and castration; it was initially discouraged for Roman citizens. By the time this portrait was created, however, many of the cult's wilder aspects had been tamed or eliminated.


Ciriaco Mattei, Italian, 1542 - 1614 (Rome, Italy)


Gavin Hamilton, British, 1723 - 1798, sold to George Nugent-Temple-Granville.

by 1788-1813

George Nugent-Temple-Granville, 1st Marquess of Buckingham, British, 1753 - 1813 (Stowe House, Buckinghamshire, England), by inheritance to his son, Richard Temple-Nugent-Brydges-Chandos-Grenville, 1813.

1813 - 1839

Richard Temple-Nugent-Brydges-Chandos-Grenville, 1st Duke of Buckingham and Chandos, English, 1776 - 1839 (Stowe House, Buckinghamshire, England), by inheritance to his son, Richard Plantagenet Temple-Nugent-Brydges-Chandos-Grenville, 1839.

1839 - 1848

Richard Plantagenet Temple-Nugent-Brydges-Chandos-Grenville, 2nd Duke of Buckingham and Chandos, British, 1797 - 1861 (Stowe House, Buckinghamshire, England) [sold, Stowe Collection, Christie and Manson, auction held at Stowe House, October 3, 1848, lot 21 to A. Robertson, Esq.]

after 1848/by 1868 - 1872

William Lowther, 2nd earl of Lonsdale, English, 1787 - 1872 (Lowther Castle, Cumbria, England), by inheritance to his heirs, 1872.

1872 - 1876

Henry Lowther, 3rd Earl of Lonsdale, 1818 - 1876, by inheritance to his heirs, 1876.

1876 - 1882

St George Henry Lowther, 4th Earl of Lonsdale, 1855 - 1882, by inheritance to his heirs, 1882.

1882 - 1944

Hugh Cecil Lowther, 5th Earl of Lonsdale, 1857 - 1944, by inheritance to his heirs, 1944.

1944 - 1947

Lancelot Edward Lowther, 6th Earl of Lonsdale, 1867 - 1953 [sold, Maple & Co., Ltd., and Thomas Wyatt, F.V.A., Lowther Castle, Lowther Castle, near Penrith, Cumberland : catalogue of the third series, on Tuesday, April 29th, 1947 and two following days, May 1, 1947, lot 2346.]

- 1957

K. J. Hewett, British, 1919 - 1994 (Bogg Farm, Ashford, Kent, England), sold to the J. Paul Getty Museum through Spink & Son, Ltd., 1957.

I, Claudia: Women in Ancient Rome (September 6, 1996 to June 15, 1997)
  • Yale University Art Gallery (New Haven), September 6 to December 1, 1996
  • San Antonio Museum of Art (San Antonio), December 22, 1996 to March 2, 1997
  • North Carolina Museum of Art (Raleigh), April 6 to June 15, 1997
Beyond Beauty: Antiquities as Evidence (December 16, 1997 to January 17, 1999)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), December 16, 1997 to January 17, 1999

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