The “Frankfurt Urania” from the Muses of Agnano

ca. 120/100 BC

Height 86 cm



The muses are the daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne (“memory”), who, as a divine force, stands for humanity’s intellectual powers. Her nine children protect and promote the creative as well as the scholarly and scientific activities of humanity. Polyhymnia, or “she who sings many songs”, fosters the singing of songs to the accompaniment of the lyre; Euterpe, or “she who gives delight”, is the muse of lyric poetry and flute-playing, while Erato, or “she who inspires love”, is the muse of love poetry. Three muses oversee the creative energies of the theatre. Thus, Terpsichore, or “she who delights in the dance”, is the muse of dance and choral song; Melpomene, or “the chanting one”, is the muse of tragedy; while Thalia, or “the festive one”, is responsible for comedy. Finally, three of Mnemosyne’s daughters are assigned to scholarship and the sciences: Clio, or “she who praises”, as the muse of epic poetry and history; Calliope, or “she of the beautiful voice”, as the muse of literature and science; and finally Urania, the “heavenly one”, as the divine inspiration of astronomy.

The famous “Frankfurt Urania” is one of a group of statues discovered in the Roman baths at Agnano (near Naples). The figures had clearly already been removed from their original location in ancient times. It is generally assumed that they were initially erected on the Greek island of Delos, near the great temple of Apollo. The execution of the fine robes is especially attractive and varies from muse to muse. The arrangement of the robes and their materials emphasise the figures’ beautiful, girlish bodies. Despite the condition of the group, which in parts is quite fragmentary, one senses even today that it is not “posed” for the viewer, but rather accords him the role of an accidental onlooker.