Saturday, 15 October 2016

Trouvaille: The Velletri Pallas, the Blockbuster in December 1803

Just imagine, how wonderful it would be if you are meeting in 'Good Society'*, and the topic of choice isn't the weather, but art. And even better, ancient Roman art!

One cannot present oneself in good society* these days without saying something about the Pallas of Velletri, and without reciting some passages from Valérie, the latest fashionable novel.

We've already read a little bit about Valérie in a recent post, but what is so special about the Pallas Velletris?  

I am sure that you have seen pictures of the Velletri Athena, even without knowing her name: 

C Wikimedia Commons
A print from 1810, at the V&A 

© The V&A  

She was discovered near Velletri in Lazio in 1797, and entered the collection of the Musée Napoléon** in December 1803. This translates that this wonder if the antique world made her appearance just days before this issue of the Journal des Dames was published. If you have ever stood in front of this imposing goddess (or a copy of it), who appears serene, beautiful, knowing, offering shelter, you understand how she became the talk of society. She was the embodiment of this new era, of a period when the spirit of consular Rome was considered to be the guiding light.

Monsieur being spellbound by a copy of her a couple of years back. The plaster copy's home is in the collection of the University of Bern, Switzerland.
© A. Reeves

More modern information can be found on the Louvre's website: 

* the 'Bonne Société was defined by Helmina de Chezy, a contemporary observer and society correspondent as members of former court circles, of good society, but actively excluding Nouveaux Riches who obtained their fortuned by speculation during the revolution. 

** The Musée Napoléon is known today as The Louvre. But back in 1803 the collection was renamed Musée Napoléon. By the way - did you know you can also search the Louvres Collection database online? 

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