Head of Hygeia
Plaster cast, Ministry of Culture Casts and Reproductions, Greece, 1988
Dimensions: H 16cm
Acc #: CC28, James Logie Memorial Collection
Copy of a marble head of Hygeia, Roman copy of a fourth century BC Greek original
Found at Epidauros, Peloponnese
National Archaeological Museum, Athens, #: 294
The original head of Hygeia is a Roman copy of a Greek original of the fourth century BC. There is no single identifiable “fourth-century sculptural style”, and this period is often regarded as a transitional phase of multiple co-existing styles, framed by the Classical style of the late fifth century, and the Hellenistic style of the late fourth and early third centuries BCE.
This head, for example, displays a calm expression and straight profile associated with Classical sculpture of the fifth century. However, the slightly plate-like eyelids and the angular treatment of the eyebrows and bridge of the nose as a continuous line recalls the Severe style (compare the facial features of the Kritios Boy or the Blonde Ephebe). The hairstyle, with thick, wavy hair loosely gathered at the top of the head in a knot, is not seen prior to the fourth century. The challenge in assigning a date lies in the fact that we do not know what variations to the original, if any, the Roman copyist might have introduced.
The original head was found in the sanctuary of Asclepius at Epidauros, one of the most important sanctuaries to this god in Antiquity. Asclepius was a god associated with healing, as were his father Apollo and his aunt Artemis. People enlisted the help of these gods by visiting their sanctuaries, which were often located at a natural spring. Statues of deities and miniature clay models of body parts are frequently found at sanctuaries of Asclepius, the majority of which were offerings of thanks to the god for a cure. The original statue this head came from may have been given in gratitude for the fulfllment of a vow.
Hygeia was one of many children of Asclepius and was the goddess of hygiene and cleanliness. The identification of this head as the goddess is inferred in part from the context—she was found somewhere in the sanctuary. She is usually represented as maiden, and is often shown wearing a fillet (headband) or diadem, or with her hair styled in a way to suggest one, as with this example. The double-looped knot of hair seen here is also found on certain other statues of goddess Hygeia in which she is shown holding a snake. The snake helps to identify statues of Hygeia conclusively, as it is also an attribute of Asclepius.
A short selection of references for this work includes:
- Bieber, Margarete. 1977. Ancient Copies: Contributions to the History of Greek and Roman Art. New York: University Press
- Burnett Grossman, Janet. 2003. Looking at Greek and Roman Sculpture in Stone: A Guide to Terms, Styles, and Techniques. Los Angeles: Getty Publications
- Kaltsas, Nikolaos. 2002. Sculpture in the National Archaeological Museum, Athens. Los Angeles: Getty Publications
- Spivey, Nigel. 1996. Understanding Greek Sculpture. London: Thames and Hudson
- Stillwell, Richard, William L. McDonald, and Marian Holland McAllister. 1976. The Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites. New Jersey: Princeton University Press