Sunday, January 29, 2017

Roman Portrait Head, 200 to 250 CE

Just sold by Sotheby's for £100,000. The broken bits were restored, and based on the technique used that probably happened in the 18th century.

I think we should go back to putting new noses on old statues. The Romans certainly would have.


G. Verloren said...

An incredibly striking figure. Do we have the faintest clue who the subject might have been?

Perhaps it's just the unintended effect of the broken nose and split lip, but when I look at this I immediately think of a boxer or grappler.

There are other factors that reinforce the notion - most notably the sharply cropped hair, which is a very brutally utilitarian sort of style, something I would expect from a soldier or a slave. And while I'm not familiar with much Roman art depicting common foot soldiers (typically the generals and elites would be the subjects of military art), I do know that the Romans absolutely loved their gladiators and depicted them frequently, and the Greeks had centuries of boxing tradition, and it was an Olympic event.

pootrsox said...

What I love about Roman portrait sculpture of the late Republic and early Empire is how extremely realistic it is.

There is a head in the Met. Museum that looks *exactly* like a man who, in the '90's, was a part of several a capella doowop groups in the NYC area. I saw him monthly.

These heads were truly portraits.

Verloren may be correct that this is a gladiator; or perhaps it's a general? Also, it might well be a portrait of one of the emperors, like Caligula, though one would think that extant portrait busts would have been matched to this one if it depicts an emperor.

John said...

I think if it were an emperor it would be a "type", which someone would have recognized.

G. Verloren said...

"I think we should go back to putting new noses on old statues. The Romans certainly would have."

Well the Romans didn't have too many other options. Today, however, we could take a damaged statue, 3D scan it and make a digital model, fabricate a duplicate, then modify the replica and leave the original intact.

Reproductions are never quite perfect, and different people will have different notions of what the missing or damaged segments of a work originally looked like. Why should we allow any one particular person to permanently "repair" a unique work to match their preferred interpretation of its unknown original state? Leave the artifact itself alone, and let people create dozens or even hundreds of competing interpretations through modern copies.

After all, the Romans also certainly loved to copy prior works...