Cornelia Salonina was the wife of the Emperor Gallienus (253-268), a noble and educated man who was patron of the philosopher Plotinus. The Empress was also a follower of Plotinus. During Gallienus's rule there was a revival of the traditions of 2nd-century Roman psychological portraiture. Cornelia is shown as Venus the Primogenitrix, as we can tell from the light chiton which drops from the right shoulder. The young woman's body is ideally beautiful, the face has unusual features and a complex expression, that of a woman torn by contradictions and deeply suffering. Interest in the inner world of the model was not uncommon at this time, a time when Christianity was spreading, when Plotinus called on his followers to perfect themselves and asserted the dominance of the spirit over the body. The author of this portrait, however, did not reject the depiction of the beauty of the material world. The fine polished surface of the marble conveys the varied textures of the fabrics, body and hair.
Portrait of Cornelia Salonina, wife of Emperor Gallien
height: 57 cm
Entered the Hermitage in 1787; formerly in the collection of Lyde Browne