Portrait head of the Emperor Domitian idealized as Hercules

Early Imperial Period, Flavian
Late 1st century A.D.

Place of Manufacture: Italy (Central)

Catalogue Raisonné

Sculpture in Stone and Bronze (MFA), no. 045.


Height: 20.5 cm (8 1/16 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Marble from Carrara in northwest Italy

Not On View


The Ancient World



Portrait head of the Emperor Domitian, idealized as Hercules.The head bears the heavy wreath (acanthus, poplar or grape leaves) tied with a broad fillet and the cauliflower ears of a young beardless Herakles of the Genzano type. The hair, neatly clipped and combed into several tiers, is Flavian in style.
The piece was broken off at the base of the neck and is chipped on the right cheek, ear and eyebrow. Several of the leaves have been damaged and the nose is completely missing. Otherwise, the head is in an excellent condition with a smooth surface and only slight incrustations on the rear of the head.

Scientific Analysis:
Harvard Lab No. HI742: Isotope ratios - delta13C +3.40 / delta18O -1.69 and Isotope ratios - delta13C +3.21 / delta18O -1.69, Harvard Lab No. HI1535: Isotope ratios - delta13C +3.21 / delta18O -1.61, Attribution - Carrara, Justification - Good quality, fine grained marble.


1938/1939, art market, Rome [see note 1]. Private collection, Chicago [see note 2]. 1978, Edward H. Merrin Gallery, New York; 1978, sold by Merrin Gallery to the MFA. (Accession Date: September 13, 1978)

[1] Recorded by the German Archaeological Institute (Deutsches Archaeologisches Institut) as being on the art market, Rome, as of January 5, 1939. See the Inventarbuch 1938 (vol. 28), Rome, 1938, page 111, accessible on http://arachne.uni-koeln.de. Photo no. 3241, Negative no. 1938.1533. Many thanks to Jörg Deterling for locating this record. [2] C. C. Vermeule and M. B. Comstock, Sculpture in Stone and Bronze in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (1988), p. 54, no. 45.

Credit Line

Frank B. Bemis Fund