Portrait head of a lady in quasi-divine guise
about A.D. 138–160
Sculpture in Stone (MFA), no. 368; Sculpture in Stone and Bronze (MFA), p. 115 (additional published references).
Height: 28 cm (11 in.)
Medium or Technique
Marble from the Greek islands or western Asia Minor, with strong crystals
Not On View
Full of character and individuality, this anonymous portrait presents the subject in somewhat ideal fashion. The complete statue must have shown this mature young lady, slightly plump but with decided features showing character, as a goddess, perhaps as a draped Persephone or as a similar Artemis. The hair is bound in a fillet above the forehead, drawn back in waves, and knotted behind. A heavy ring of braids, like that of a Hellenistic Aphrodite, encircles the crown. They are attractively looped and divided. The face is a moving illustration of late Antonine emotionalism, the head turned slightly sideways and the eyes upward as if inspired by the unseen or unrevealed beyond
Nose and chin have been damaged; the surfaces, chipped here and there, have a crusty, yellowish patina.
The woman’s upturned eyes have been made excessively prominent to emphasize her pious, spiritual nature. Her gentle, benign expression may well mark her as virtuous and benevolent. A braid of her hair is knotted above her forehead like a diadem. This hairstyle is also worn by the Empress Sabina (died in A.D. 136 or 137).
Harvard Lab No. HI095: Isotope ratios - delta13C +1.19 / delta18O -3.51, Attribution - Aphrodisias 1, Aphrodisias 2, Paros 2, Usak, Ephesos 2, Mylasa; Justification - White, coarse-grained marble.
1973, sold by Mohammad Yeganeh (dealer; b. 1929 - d. 2012), Galerie für Griechische, Römische und Byzantinische Kunst, Frankfurt, to the MFA [see note]. (Accession Date: May 9, 1973)
NOTE: According to Sculpture in Stone: The Greek, Roman and Etruscan Collections of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (1976), pp. 234-235, no. 368, this sculpture is said to have been found in Asia Minor and to come from a private collection in Central Europe. The dealer probably have provided this information at the time of acquisition.
Benjamin and Lucy Rowland Fund