Herm-bust of Menander

Imperial Period
Late 1st century B.C. or early 1st century A.D.

Catalogue Raisonné

Sculpture in Stone (MFA), no. 121; Sculpture in Stone and Bronze (MFA), p. 109-110 (additional published references); Highlights: Classical Art (MFA), p. 125.


Height: 51.5cm ( 20 1/4 in.); length (of face): 19.6 cm (7 11/16 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Marble (from Mt. Pentelikon near Athens)

On View

Ancient Greece: Greek Theater Gallery (Gallery 215C)


The Ancient World



The very tip of the nose is missing. The surface on the right side of the face and neck is corroded and worn. The bust takes the form of a herm, with slots for wooden inserts, on which garlands could be hung. The neck is inclined toward the left shoulder, and the head is turned slightly to the subject’s right. The man portrayed is in the prime of life.

Menander was the leading writer of “New Comedy” whose dramas concerned lively, though highly unusual, domestic crises. His plots, known from Latin adaptations by Plautus and Terence, involve scheming slaves and kidnapped daughters. The model for this portrait, probably set up in the Theater of Dionysus at Athens, couples visionary intelligence and a lean, athletic grandeur in a way that is paralleled in portraits of Alexander the Great by Lysippus.

Scientific Analysis:
Harvard Lab No. HI226: Isotope ratios - delta13C +2.48 / delta18O -4.64, Attribution - Pentelikon, Justification - Fine grained marble, Petrographic Analysis - maximum grain size (1.1, 1.2 mm), accessory minerals (dolomite, quartz), Mg present.


By date unknown: with Edward Perry Warren (according to Warren's records: Can be traced as far as Torre Annunziata. Probably found in the neighbourhood.); 1897: purchased by MFA from Edward Perry Warren for $ 25,000.00 (this figure is the total price for MFA 97.285-97.442 and 97.1104)

Credit Line

Catharine Page Perkins Fund