Late Roman Marble Head of a contemporary of Constantine
Culture: Roman, Ro-Late
Period: Late 3rd - early 4th Century A.D.
Material: Coarse-grained white marble
Dimensions: Height: 23.5 cm
Acquired on the European art market in 2000.
The face and a fragment of the neck are preserved. The surface is in an excellent state of preservation.
This head remains very expressive in spite of severe damage: only the face and a fragment of the neck are preserved. The surface is in an excellent state of preservation and the carved details are still clearly visible. It is a high quality piece, with many details rendered plastically or by incisions. All these elements are expressed in an essential, slightly rough way – particularly by deep and angular incisions as well as sharp edges.
The head, squared and powerful, is that of a middle-aged man with an emaciated, wrinkled face and pouches under the eyes; his cheeks are hollow and his cheekbones prominent. The almond-shaped eyes look resolutely forward in the direction of the viewer: the iris is circular and the pupil is marked by a slight concavity. The gaze, focused and direct, is that of a man accustomed to giving orders, a man of action: the portrait certainly belonged to a member of the aristocratic or senatorial class. The man wears a very short beard with a simply pocked surface whose contour is indicated by a clean line on the cheeks and around the mouth. Small irregular lines mark the locks and the hair. The contour of the mouth is finely carved and indicated by a sharp edge; at the corners of the lips, the skin is shaved, while at the center, the beard, which is finely carved, draws a triangle that touches the lower lip. The arched shape of the lips, thin and volumeless, with downward drooping corners, seems to betray a kind of bitterness. Two deep wrinkles mark the wings of the nose and descend down to the corners of the mouth.
The sober style, with precise and assured strokes but which less emphasis on the modeling and the rounded shapes, is this head’s main feature. One finds these elements in the portraits of private citizens from the late 3rd and mostly the first decades of the 4th century A.D., like the famous Dogmatiusfrom the Lateran Museum in Rome; other elements (the fixed gaze, the superficial rendering of the beard and the moustache, the circles under the eyes, etc.) confirm this dating.
GIULIANO A., Catalogo dei ritratti del Museo Profano Lateranense, Vatican City, 1957, n. 99 pl. 59-60 (portrait of Dogmatius).
INAN J.-ROSENBAUM E., Roman and early Byzantine Portrait Sculpture in Asia Minor, London, 1966, n. 218, pl. 120, and n. 274, pl. 151.
JOHANSEN F., Catalogue Roman Portraits III (Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek), Copenhague, 1995, n. 62, n. 72, n. 82, n. 95.