Head of a Youth
Plaster cast, Ministry of Culture Casts and Reproductions, Greece, 1988
Dimensions: H 26cm
Acc #: CC26, James Logie Memorial Collection
Copy of a marble head of a youth, late first century BC
Found at the Ancient Agora, Athens
National Archaeological Museum, Athens, #: 457
The original work from which this head is copied was made in the late first century AD, when Greece was a Roman province ruled by the Roman emperor. Some of the features, such as the treatment of the eyebrows and nose, the smooth quality of the skin, and the passive expression, distinctly recall Classical and late Classical styles of the fifth and fourth centuries BCE.
This is a distinctly Roman portrait, and not necessarily a copy of an earlier Greek work. Several features are of interest in this regard. The most important of these is the hair, which peeps out from under the head covering. The locks are miniature versions of the “crab-claw” locks that appear on all portraits of the Roman emperor, Augustus, and on male portraits of the early first century AD. The headcovering, which consists of a cloth band wound around the head and with the ends looped up and secured over the ears, has been described as a turban.
The headcovering on this piece is almost unique on male portraits in Greek or Roman art; it is usually female portraits that have a head covered by a cloak, veil, or in some cases a kerchief. It might therefore be an article of clothing associated with a particular ethnic group that is intended to identify this individual either as neither Greek nor Roman, similar to the way that Persians are represented in their distinctive hats, and Gauls are shown wearing gold torques around their necks. Alternatively, it might be an example of exoticism, where a Roman deliberately appears in non-Roman clothing. It is possible that the statue was part of a group that might have helped explain the head gear.
A short selection of references for this work includes:
- Gagarin, Michael. 2010. The Oxford Encyclopaedia of Ancient Greece and Rome. Oxford: University Press
- Lullies, R; Hirmer, M. Greek Sculpture. London: Thames and Hudson. 1957
- Ridgway, Brunilde Sismondo. 1900-2000. Hellenistic Sculpture Volumes I-III. Wisconsin: University Press
- Whitley, J. 2001. The Archaeology of Ancient Greece. Cambridge: University Press.