Old woman from a grave stele

Late Classical Period
350–340 B.C.

Place of Manufacture: Greece, Attica, Athens

Catalogue Raisonné

Sculpture in Stone (MFA), no. 069; Sculpture in Stone and Bronze (MFA), p. 108 (additional published references).


Height: 26.5 cm (10 7/16 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Marble, possibly from Mt. Pentelikon near Athens

On View

Gallery 212A-B


The Ancient World



A head of a woman carved from Pentelic marble and in deep relief (nearly in the round), most likely was part of an Attic grave stele. The woman’s hair is cropped over the ears and at the nape of the neck creating a curly mass. Although cropped hair could be the mark of a slave, it could also be a sign of mourning, particularly for older women. Cropped hair and visible signs of age make this woman’s identity somewhat problematic – she is either a nursemaid or a mourning family member. Two finger-tips remain on the right side of the face, one on her jaw-line and the other between eye and temple – these are the best indications that the woman originally brought her hand to right cheek in a gesture of mournful contemplation.

The nose has sustained considerable damage, and there are abrasions to the right eyebrow and left side of the hair. The brow hanging over recessed eyes, thick eyelids, and the deeply carved lips all point to a date in the 4th century. This was also a period during which grave stelai were more deeply carved and more densely populated.

Scientific Analysis:

University of South Florida Lab No. 8408, 8410: Isotope ratios - delta13C -2.0 (fresh marble), -10.5 (surface) / delta18O -6.3 (fresh marble), -7.0 (surface)

Attribution - possibly from Mt. Pentelikon. Justification - C and O isotopes, fine grain, Attic style


By 1901: with E. P. Warren (according to Warren's records: Found near Kerataia (Attica) winter 1899.); purchased by MFA from E. P. Warren, December 1901

Credit Line

Henry Lillie Pierce Fund