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This colossal Roman statue of a female has been restored as the muse Melpomene with the addition of a modern mask. It is however thought that this sculpture might have originally been part of the Theatre of Pompey in Rome. For comparison, here is a later well-known Roman sculpture of Melpomene. 

Melpomene was one of the 9 Muses (Mousai), and was first the Muse of singing, and later the Muse of tragedy, the latter for which she is best known today. In this guise she was often portrayed to be holding a tragic mask or sword.

The following passage was written by Greek historian Diodorus Siculus during the 1st century BC (Library of History 4. 7. 1, trans. Oldfather):

"To each of the Mousai (Muses) men assign her special aptitude for one of the branches of the liberal arts, such as poetry, song, pantomimic dancing, the round dance with music, the study of the stars, and the other liberal arts … For the name of each Mousa (Muse), they say, men have found a reason appropriate to her: … Melpomene, from the chanting (melodia) by which she charms the souls of her listeners." 

This sculpture is 12’7” in height, and dates to ca. 50 BC.

Artifact courtesy of the Louvre, France. Accession number: Ma 411 (MR 269). Photo taken by Eric Gaba.


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