Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Images from Livy (6)

'The Introduction of the Cult of Cybele at Rome', by Andrea Mantegna (about 1430/1-1506), 1505-6. Glue on Linen. Housed in National Gallery (London).

The National Gallery's page on this picture says the following:

Inscribed in the centre: S HOSPES NUMINIS IDAEI C [By decree of the Senate host to the Idaean deity]. Various other inscriptions on the tombs.

In 204 BC the Romans brought the cult of Cybele, the eastern goddess of victory, from Pessina, Asia Minor, to Rome. Mantegna has combined the accounts of Ovid, Livy and Appian. Cybele is represented by her sacred stone - 'she fell to earth as a meteor' - and as a bust with a mural crown (associating her with a city state). According to Juvenal, Cornelius Scipio (probably in profile gesturing with his right hand) was the most worthy Roman citizen to receive Cybele.

This is one of four pictures commissioned in 1505 by Francesco Cornaro a Venetian nobleman, who claimed descent from the ancient Cornelii family (prominent in the picture). Mantegna only completed one before his death and Bellini supplied another (Washington, National Gallery).

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