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A ROMAN MARBLE PORTRAIT HEAD OF A MAN
A ROMAN MARBLE PORTRAIT HEAD OF A MAN
A ROMAN MARBLE PORTRAIT HEAD OF A MAN
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A ROMAN MARBLE PORTRAIT HEAD OF A MAN

LATE ANTONINE TO EARLY SEVERAN PERIOD, CIRCA 180-195 A.D.

Details
A ROMAN MARBLE PORTRAIT HEAD OF A MAN
LATE ANTONINE TO EARLY SEVERAN PERIOD, CIRCA 180-195 A.D.
15 ¾ in. (40 cm.) high
Provenance
with Simone de Monbrison, Paris.
Dr. Anton Pestalozzi (1915-2007), Zurich, acquired from the above, 1977; thence by descent to the current owner.
Literature
H. Jucker and D. Willers, eds., Gesichter: Griechische und römische Bildnisse aus Schweizer Besitz, Bern, 1982, pp. 182-183, no. 76.
K. Stemmer, Kaiser Marc Aurel und seine Zeit: Abguss-Sammlung Antiker Plastik, Rome, 1988, pp. 43-44, no. D11.
I. Jucker, Skulpturen der Antiken-Sammlung Ennetwies, Mainz am Rhein, 1995, Band 1, pp. 42-43, no. 25, pls. 51-52.
Arachne Online Database no. 1091304.
Exhibited
Bernisches Historisches Museum, Gesichter: Griechische und römische Bildnisse aus Schweizer Besitz, 6 November 1982-6 February 1983.

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Lot Essay

The size and workmanship of this portrait demonstrate that the man represented was a respected individual, perhaps either an official of the civil/military administration or a wealthy landowner. A particularly striking feature of this portrait is the luxurious hair of the sitter. His head is engulfed with tousled curls and his face with a mustache and a short beard of waves and ringlets. It was fashionable across the entire Roman Empire to have curly hair. It was also the trend at this time to break from the classical tradition of realism in favor of a baroque style of portraiture, depicting exaggerated and contrasting features, including the smoothness of the face with the roughness of the hair. As observed by P. Zanker in Roman Portraits, Sculptures in Stone and Bronze, 2016, p. 171, it would almost seem as if there was competition to see who could fashion the most extravagant hairstyle. See a bust of a young man with similar tousled hair at The Metropolitan Museum of Art (no. 61, Zanker, op. cit.).

Later portraits from the reign of Commodus (180-192 A.D.) and the early years of Septimius Severus’s reign (193-211 A.D.) share a close stylistic resemblance to the present example. Here, the rounded articulated eyes are framed with heavy upper and lower lids, which gaze aimlessly into the distance, giving the sitter an entranced expression; a feature found in most of the later portraits of Commodus (see no. 97 in F. Johansen, Katalog Romerske Portrætter II, NY Carlsberg Glyptotek).

Jucker (op. cit.) suggests that the sitter of this portrait was of North African origin. Roman activity in Africa is reflected in art and literary sources throughout the history of the Empire. The Emperor Septimius Severus was himself from Libya, and men from his province are attested to have served among the Emperor’s auxiliaries (see “The Life of Septimius Severus,” in Historia Augusta, 22.4-5).

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