Portrait of a man
about A.D. 140–165
Sculpture in Stone (MFA), no. 359; Sculpture in Stone and Bronze (MFA), p. 115 (additional published references).
Height x length (of face): 82 x 17 cm (32 5/16 x 6 11/16 in.)
Medium or Technique
Marble, probably from the Greek island of Paros
Roman Art Gallery (Gallery 213)
This young man of the Antonine period bears a very close resemblance to Marcus Aurelius as Caesar (between 140 and 161) about A.D. 145. His chin, however, is much less pronounced than that of the second Antonine ruler, and therefore this masterful portrait in a translucent marble most suited to the richness of carving must represent an anonymous person of high station. He was perhaps the son, brother, or important follower of a governor of Egypt. The cloak is pinned around the shoulders in a fashion often affected by princes and notables in military or high civic service.
The mass of hair has been elaborately worked with drill and fine chisel to create careful details amid the Antonine baroque richness. The curls over the forehead are deeply undercut, and the eyebrows have been modeled in relief. Flesh and drapery are polished to a high degree. A section of the tunic shows under the heavy folds of the cloak, which is fastened on the right shoulder by a brooch shaped like a four-petaled flower. The hems of the garments have been indicated by incised lines. The shape of the the brooch is echoed in the enrichment of the supporting plate above the round pedestal.
The bust and pedestal are ancient and belong together; there is merely some minor damage in the hair and the drapery. Portions of the surface have been cleaned with acid; the entire ensemble has a delicate, light yellow to golden brown coloration.
Marble has been scientifically tested with X-Ray Diffraction and determined to be Calcitic.
University of South Florida Lab number 8434-5: Isotope ratios - delta13C +2.46, 2.1 / delta18O -3.5, -3.37, Attribution - Probably Paros 2, Possibly Naxos-Melanes, Justification - C and O isotopes, coarse-grained marble.
This portrait bears a close resemblance to portraits of Marcus Aurelius created before he became emperor in A.D. 161. Slight differences make it clear, however, that this is not the young prince but an imperial subject who modeled his image on that of the heir-apparent.
By 1924: Denman Waldo Ross Collection (said to be from Egypt); gift of Denman Waldo Ross to MFA, November 8, 1924
Denman Waldo Ross Collection