During the late Roman Republic, ca. 1st century B.C., there was an emergence of portraiture in Italy centered primarily around Rome. This trend coincided with the development of ancestral reverence by which wax masks of deceased family members were displayed in household shrines. As these images (imagines, in Latin) were molded directly onto the flesh of the deceased, they revealed a fully realistic portrayal of their subject. This tradition brought about the verism of Republican portrait sculpture, where skin texture, blemishes, wrinkles and stark realism were the chosen artistic vocabulary.
Two portraits, perhaps from the same workshop as our piece, formerly in the William Herbert Hunt Collection, are now on exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. See nos. 43 & 44, pp. 126-129 in von Bothmer, et al., Wealth of the Ancient World, The Nelson Bunker Hunt and William Herbert Hunt Collections.
A metallurgical analysis confirming that the metal is consistent with bronzes of this period accompanies this lot.