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Opening a Museum Treasure

February 11, 2011

Uncrating Party Reveals Ancient Art Acquisition

On Thursday, February 17, members of the Museum community gathered to watch as the Museum staff opened a very special shipping crate. Delivered from Sotheby's, the crate contained the newest ancient art acquisition for the Museum: a Roman Imperial Period bust.

Associate Curator of Ancient Art Pieter Broucke narrated as the crate was carefully maneuvered into position and opened.  The bust was unpacked and a lucky handful of guests welcomed her to the Middlebury College Museum of Art's collection with a toast.

Watch a slideshow of the uncrating>>


About the artwork:

Empress Furia Sabina Tranquillina

attributed to the so-called "Gordian Master," active mid-third century C.E.

Roman Imperial Period, 241–244 C.E.

Marble, H. 54.6 cm (21 1.2")


Notes from the Curator:

Furia Sabina tranquillina was the wife of Emperor Gordian III, who ruled from 238 to 244 C.E., during the tumultuous time of the Soldier Emperors. Her portraits have been securely identified on the basis of coins that feature her distinctive coiffure.

This portrait is representative of Tranquillina's sole portrait type, which is attributed to the so-called "Gordian Master," an anonymous artist who also created portraits of Gordian III and the Emperor Gallienus (ruled 253–268 C.E.). The Gordian Master's style is characterized by a geometric, abstract approach to the human face.

The socle and veined-marble bust to which the portrait head is attached date to the Baroque period (17th century), when collectors wanted their antiquities made "whole," as opposed to later periods, when collectors preferred their antiquities to be "pure."

This portrait bust was previously in a French collection in Lyon, where it resided for at least a century.


Watch for Empress Furia Sabina Tranquillina to come on view at the Middlebury College Museum of Art in the future.

Mahaney Arts Center
Middlebury College
South Main St./Route 30 South
72 Porter Field Rd.
Middlebury, VT 05753
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(802) 443-2834 fax