Head of a youth ("The Nelson Head")

Imperial Period
about mid-2nd century A.D.

Catalogue Raisonné

Sculpture in Stone (MFA), no. 146; Sculpture in Stone and Bronze (MFA), p. 111 (additional published references).


Height: 29 cm (11 7/16 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Dolomitic marble from the Greek island of Thasos

On View

Greek & Roman Sculpture Gallery (Gallery 211)


The Ancient World



The over life-size, oval face of the male youth gazes downwards, with the head tilted towards the right shoulder. Small eyes are framed by heavy eyelids; the lips are full. The hair is worn in thick layers of deeply cut, short curls. The top of the skull is flat rather than round and the hair radiates in a starburst pattern at the back of the head.

Condition: Broken along the middle of the neck. The tip of the nose and the right side of the mouth are restored in marble. Iron stains on left side of the mouth and along the nose.

Scientific Analysis:
Marble has been scientifically tested with X-Ray Diffraction and determined to be Dolomitic.
Harvard Lab No. HI360: Isotope ratios - delta13C +3.85 / delta18O -3.82, Attribution - Thasos-Cape Vathy, Justification - Dolomitic by XRD.

This head blends elements from different periods of Greek sculpture. The sharply outlined face seems inspired by works of the fifth century B.C., but the wavy,
asymmetrical hair is more in the manner of the later fourth century. The head resembles that of the “Ares Ludovisi,” a famous statue of the war god found in Rome, but differences between the two leave the identification uncertain.


By 1903: with Edward Perry Warren (according to Warren's records: Bought from Philip Nelson of Liverpool.); (according to L. D. Caskey, Catalogue of Greek and Roman Sculpture, no. 73: Probably found in Italy. Purchased from Dr. Philip Nelson, by whom it had been acquired in Bath at the sale of the collection of Captain Maignac, who had inherited it from his father-in-law, the artist Walton.); purchased by MFA from Edward Perry Warren, March 24, 1903

Credit Line

Francis Bartlett Donation of 1900