The British Museum - Curator's comments
Roman version of a Greek work of the 4th century BC. The bronze helmet and drapery were made by the sculptor Albacini, copying a bust of Athena now in the Vatican Museum.Cook 2013, nr. 244:
Townley's description; ‘A head of Minerva, found 1783 in the Villa Casali amongst ruins, which are supposed to have belonged to the Baths of Olimpiodorus; the eyes anciently were formed of precious stones, or vitrified pastes; it originally had a helmet of bronze, the fastenings of which are still apparent’ (TY 12/3, park drawing room 6). That the head was found in the Villa Casali is repeated in TY12/12, the Parlour Catalogue owned by Simon Townley, and TY 12/5, but according to Jenkins it was found in the Villa Palombara near S. Maria Maggiore (letter dated 12 June 1782, TY 7/414). The same letter demonstrates that alternative dates for the discovery (1783 in TY 10/3, fo. 23, and TY 12/3; and 1784 in TY 12/5 and TY 12/12) must be wrong. In TY 10/3, moreover, the findspot is given as ‘on ye Esquiline hill in ruins yt are supposed to have been ye baths of Olympiodorus’, perhaps another of that transcript’s many errors.
Bought from Jenkins for £100 (TY 8/78-79, TY 10/3, addenda to TY 10/6). In his first letter on the object (TY 7/414), Jenkins reported that the ancient bronze helmet was missing and was to be restored. He had shown the head to Angelica Kaufman and her husband, who were staying with him at Castelgondolfo. Jenkins later found that it was also necessary to have the bust restored in bronze (TY 7/416, 2 November 1782), although he had originally intended to use alabaster (TY 7/417, 8 January 1783). The restoration was carried out by Albacini (additional note in the Towneley Hall copy of the parlour catalogue). The head was still at Leghorn in November 1783 (TY 7/421), but by April 1784, it was in London (TY 7/422/1). Townley called it ‘a divine bit of sculpture’ (TY 7/422/2).