Bust of a man

Roman Provincial
Imperial Period, Palmyrene Group I
about A.D. 100–150

Place of Manufacture: Syria, Palmyra


Height x width: 54 x 44 cm (21 1/4 x 17 5/16 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique


Not On View


The Ancient World



The beardless, youngish man has his hair arranged in two rows of locks, combed forward. He wears a chiton (tunic) and himation (a cloak-like garment draped diagonally across the body). With his cap-like hair and large, frozen eyes the man is a striking anticipation of the later imperial portrait styles of the fourth century A.D. This is also emphasized in the regular, linear details of eyebrows, eyelids, and sides of the nose, not to overlook the crisply carved, firm mouth.

The index and middle fingers on both hands are extended to draw attention to the object held in the left hand, perhaps a schedula (book roll), two keys, or the ends of a fillet. Such attributes may represent certain professions, or some other aspect of the deceased’s identity; if a schedula, the attribute in this relief indicates that the deceased was probably a business man or scribe. Rings, with ringstones, appear on his left forefinger and on the little finger of the same hand.

The upper part of the background has been broken away irregularly. Otherwise head and bust are in nearly perfect condition. The crown of the head is hollowed out, behind a diadem-like ridge; this could suggest a headdress in metal or plaster.


Dana Estes (b. 1841 - d. 1909), Brookline, MA; 1910, gift of the estate of Dana Estes to the MFA. (Accession Date: March 28, 1910)

Credit Line

Gift of the Estate of Dana Estes