These two items in ivory, the head and left forearm of a chryselephantine statue, were found during the excavations conducted in 1824 by the Roman antiquarian Francesco Capranesi between 1824 and 1839 at Monte Calvo in Sabina, in the Villa of the Bruttii Praesentes, a powerful family from the entourage of the emperor Hadrian (117-138 A.D.).
The chryselephantine technique – from the Greek terms chrysòs (gold) and elephàntinos (ivory), referring to the principal materials used – was rare in classical antiquity and almost exclusively reserved for the production of important religious statues. The high value and perishable nature of the raw material used have caused the almost total loss of examples of these works, and therefore their discovery in archaeological sites constitutes an exceptional event.
Of the numerous works of art found in the villa, these two items were, unfortunately, the only acquisition made by Pope Gregory XVI (6 July 1832). Originally belonging to a chryselephantine statue of Athena, life-sized and connoting peace, they are to be regarded in the context of the rebirth of this technique during the age of Hadrian, following the restoration of the Athena Parthénos and the production of works such as the Zeus in the Olympieion in Athens and the votive deposit at the Isthmian sanctuary of Corinth.