The so-called ‘Hippolytus-statue’ is far more than one of the countless Roman antiquities to decorate the hallway of the Vatican Apostolic Library: it is the first known Christian, or Christianised, free-standing sculpture in history. Originating in the Pre-Constantinian era, it is one of the ‘Last Statues of Late Antiquity‘. Although the statue itself appears to be unspectacular at first sight, a closer look, however, reveals that it must be a ‘transvestite’: the bearded philosopher wears female underwear and is seated on a throne covered by inscriptions. The anomaly has its roots in the Renaissance reassembly of antique torso(s)/fragment(s) and in a ‘modern’ completion by the antiquarian Pirro Ligorio (1512?-1583), a papal architect under popes Paul IV and Pius IV. Once identified with Hippolytus, an influential theologian, martyr and bishop of Portus, it was installed at various papal representative spaces over the centuries. This international expert’s workshop approaches the statue from multidisciplinary perspectives with the aim to reveal some of the statue’s well-kept secrets.
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