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Vestal Virgin

Vestal Virgin

Artist: Claude Michel (called Clodion) (French, 1738–1814)
Culture: French
Date: c. 1799
Medium: Terracotta with polychrome wood base
Dimensions:
Height (with base): 17 1/2 inches (44.4 cm)
Classification: Sculpture
Credit Line: Gift of Mary D. B. T. Semans & James H. Semans, M.D., in honor of Mrs. Mary Duke Biddle
Label Text:Clodion's presentation of a nubile adolescent girl as a Vestal Virgin sublimates sensuality while referencing an ancient religious tradition of chastity. Vestals, who pledged to remain virgins, tended the fires of the Roman goddess of the hearth, Vesta. This young woman carries a basket of garlands to be placed on an altar as a sacrifice, as well as a vase for sacrificial oil. Her clinging drapery reveals her body underneath, and her left breast is exposed. Clodion, whose playfully sensuous rococo style had been mediated by neoclassical taste in the 1790s, was here inspired by the "wet-drapery" look often used in ancient Greek female sculptures, such as we might see in the Parthenon goddesses and the Winged Victory of Samothrace.

Provenance: Mary Duke Biddle Trent Semans and Dr. James H. Semans [1910-2005]; gift 1991 to Duke University Museum of Art, now Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University.
Object number: 1991.8.2