New loans from Italy now on view at the Princeton University Art Museum


Exceptional objects from ancient Greece and Rome dazzle museum visitors and scholars alike

PRINCETON, NJ – The Princeton University Art Museum recently installed four significant loans from the Republic of Italy, continuing a collegial relationship between the Art Museum and the Ministero per i Beni e le Attivitá Culturali (Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities).

Among the objects on loan to the Art Museum for the next four years, three originate from the Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli: an Attic Greek red-figure stamnos, attributed to the Dinos Painter; a Roman marble head of an athlete; and a Roman bronze statuette of a putto.  The fourth object, a Roman basanite bust of a woman, is on loan from the Museo Archeologico Statale di Vibo Valentia.

“We are proud to serve as the temporary home for these superb works of art, which afford our scholarly and community audiences insights into Classical Greece and ancient Rome as wonderful complements to our own collections,” said James Steward, Director of the Princeton University Art Museum.  “I’m delighted that our relationship with the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities and the archaeological museums in Naples and Vibo Valentia make it possible to present such masterworks to American audiences.”

Loans on view include:

Greek, Attic, attributed to the Dinos Painter. Red-figure stamnos, 430–420 B.C. Ceramic. Lent by the Republic of ItalyAn Attic Red-figure Stamnos, attributed to the Dinos Painter (Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli)

This stamnos, a vessel made for the serving of wine, is one of the finest and best preserved works of Athenian vase-painting ever discovered in Italy, a masterpiece of the mature Classical style of the second half of the fifth century B.C.  Attributed to the hand of an anonymous artist known as the Dinos Painter, it shows a group of maenads, the frenzied, female followers of Dionysos, around a totem of the wine-god.  The women are dancing, playing musical instruments, brandishing torches, and ladling wine from a pair of stamnoi on a table.  This nighttime rite has been associated by some scholars with the Lenaia, one of the principal Athenian festivals in honor of Dionysos.

Roman Marble Head of an Athlete (Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli)

Formerly from in the Astarita collection, this marble head is in excellent condition and of exceptional quality.  The features of the young male are not particular enough for it to be a portrait of a specific individual. Instead, he represents in generic form the Greek ideal of areté, of youthful male beauty, specifically a nude athlete, in which all the ideal traits of humanity are embodied.  Although Roman in date, probably early 2nd -century, it is likely to have been derived from or loosely based upon an original Greek work of the second half of the fifth century B.C.

A Roman Bronze Statuette of a Putto (Museo Archeologico di Napoli)

A rare survivor in bronze, this statuette represents a type of sculptural ornament that adorned temples, public buildings, and wealthy private dwellings in the early Roman Empire.  It was found at Herculaneum, an ancient city near Pompeii that was destroyed by the eruption of Vesuvius in A.D 79.  Putti—chubby young males resembling Cupid but lacking wings or a specific mythological milieu—are ubiquitous in Greco-Roman art and occur in many media over several centuries, normally in a decorative context. The dolphin with a spout in its mouth suggests that this putto derives from a fountain, perhaps in the courtyard of a private home or villa.

A Roman Basanite Bust of a Woman (Museo Archeologico di Vibo Valentia)

This sculpture is unusual not only for the shape of the bust, which is finished in the back, and for the curious coiffure of the woman or girl, but for being carved from basanite, a hard, black, igneous stone that is more difficult to carve than marble.  Basanite is not found in Italy, where this bust was discovered, at Vibo Valentia, in Calabria, and so must have been imported, perhaps from North Africa.  The black stone would have lent an exotic flavor to whatever decorative scheme or sculptural ensemble it once was associated with.  The identity of the woman is unknown, but it appears to be a portrait of a private individual, perhaps in the guise of a goddess. It has been dated to the Claudian era of the second quarter of the first century A.D.


About the Princeton University Art Museum

Founded in 1882, the Princeton University Art Museum is one of the leading university art museums in the country. From the founding gift of a collection of porcelain and pottery, the collections have grown to more than 72,000 works of art that range from ancient to contemporary art and concentrate geographically on the Mediterranean regions, Western Europe, China, the United States, and Latin America.

Committed to advancing Princeton’s teaching and research missions, the Art Museum serves as a gateway to the University for visitors from around the world. The Museum is intimate in scale yet expansive in scope, offering a respite from the rush of daily life, a revitalizing experience of extraordinary works of art, and an opportunity to delve deeply into the study of art and culture.

The Princeton University Art Museum is located at the heart of the Princeton campus, a short walk from the shops and restaurants of Nassau Street. Admission is free. Museum hours are Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Thursday 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.; and Sunday 1 to 5 p.m. The Museum is closed Mondays and major holidays.


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