Head of a goddess or queen
about 300–270 B.C.
Greek, Etruscan, & Roman Bronzes (MFA), no. 087; Sculpture in Stone and Bronze (MFA), p. 119-120 (additional published references); Highlights: Classical Art (MFA), p. 167.
Height: 25.5 cm (10 1/16 in.)
Medium or Technique
Greek & Roman Sculpture Gallery (Gallery 211)
On iconographic grounds, this life-size female head has been considered a portrait of the Ptolemaic queen Arsinoe II (316-270 B.C.) or an image of a goddess, such as Artemis or Aphrodite. The wavy hair is parted in the center and encircled twice by a fillet (ribbon). Long, thin eyebrows frame heavy eyelids, long nose, and full lips. The eyes, now missing, would have been inserted into the hollow sockets; the lips were coated in another metal.
Condition: Irregular break along the base of the face. Crack along the chin, which was reattached. Two cracks along the left cheek. Large gashes on the top of the head and large dent along the right side of the forehead. Green patina.
This idealized female head, said to have been found at Memphis in Egypt, leaves it unclear who is represented. The flawless features and loosely fastened, undulating hair, are appropriate for a goddess such as Artemis or Aphrodite; the style may show the influence of Skopas, one of the leading Greek sculptors of the fourth century. Yet the head also bears a marked resemblance-especially the long, delicate nose-to portraits of Arsinoë II, queen of Egypt in the 270s B.C.; the ribbon in her hair could be a diadem, signature headgear of later Greek royalty.
By 1892: Count Michel Tyszkiewicz Collection (according to W. Frohner, La Collection Tyszkiewicz, p. 39: trouvé en Égypte); by 1896: with Edward Perry Warren (according to Warren's records: Said to have been found in Egypt at Memphis.); purchased by MFA from Edward Perry Warren, October 1896
Catharine Page Perkins Fund