Niobe, daughter of Tantalus, and wife of Amphion, King of Thebes, was overly full of maternal pride, and boasted about how many children she had (according to Homer, 6 sons and 6 daughters; according to Ovid, 7 of each), and hinted that her fertility was greater than that of Leto, mother of Apollo and Diana. Indeed, 12 children or 14 children are a far cry from two. Leto’s children took revenge upon Niobe and slew the children: Apollo killed all the boys, Diana killed all the girls (according to a 2d century b.c. writer – Apollodorus – one daughter, Chloris, got away).
The Sala della Niobe is an exercise in 18th-century neo-classical (non-)restraint: the sculptures, which date from the 1st c. b.c. to the 1st c. a.d. (precise dates, like the name of the artist, are unknown), emote in operatic proportions. The statues are lined up along the walls, which is not the way they were initially intended to be viewed.
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