The marble statue of a goddess, possibly Persephone, stands watch over the courtyard. Her left arm, now missing, may have held an attribute like a pomegranate. She was sculpted from Greek island marble during the first century B.C. or A.D., but she is draped in clothing typical of around 340 B.C., and has a 4th century B.C. hair style. This indicates that she is probably based on a Praxitelean funerary figure. Praxiteles was one of the most renowned sculptors in Athens during the 4th century B.C., and there are numerous Hellenistic and Roman copies by followers of the sculptor.
The 19th century saw an increased fervor for collecting ancient Greek and Roman art. Richard Norton (1872-1918), Director of the Archaeological Institute of America, helped assemble Isabella Stewart Gardner’s collection of ancient sculpture. With his recommendations, Gardner focused her collecting on Classical marble pieces that echoed the figures in her prized Renaissance paintings.