Portrait of a Roman man

Imperial Period, Severan
A.D. 240–260

Catalogue Raisonné

Sculpture in Stone (MFA), no. 376; Sculpture in Stone and Bronze (MFA), p. 116 (additional published references).


Height: 18 cm (7 1/16 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Marble, Island or western Asiatic

Not On View


The Ancient World



Characterized by hair which has been rendered by picked-out incisions to form a close-fitting cap around the skull and down the neck, this half life-sized head appears to have come from a funerary monument, perhaps even from a giant sarcophagus. A few veristic details are rendered; two wrinkles on the brow, crow’s feet at the side of the right eye, a set of plump jowls, and largish ears. Otherwise, there is a generalization that befits a funerary monument. This is manifest chiefly in the fact that the pupils of the eyes are not shown, a rare phenomenon for the third century A.D. when they were usually indicated by one or more incised circles or crescents. In this case, the pupils were probably rendered in paint.
A section of marble, a puntello, on the right side of the head, combined with asymmetry to its own left and a less careful treatment of the right ear, indicates the portrait was meant to be seen facing somewhat to the left, on a front of a sarcophagus in almost freestanding relief or in a funerary niche. The habit of making deep drill holes for the tear ducts of the eyes and at the corners of the mouth is characteristic of third century heads in the round on sarcophagi or from funerary stelei.
The head is broken off across the neck. The nose is mostly knocked away, and the ears have suffered in similar fashion. There are abrasions and dents on the face, particularly at the lips and chin. The surfaces are quite clean.


By about 1960, sold by a dealer in Rome to Charles Brickbauer, Baltimore [see note 1]; about 1961, consigned by Charles Brickbauer to J. J. Klejman (dealer; b. 1906 - d. 1995), New York [see note 2]; 1963, gift of Mr. and Mrs. John J. Klejman to the MFA. (Accession Date: January 9, 1963)

NOTES: [1] At the time of the sale, the dealer said it had come from near Tusculum (Frascati). [2] At the time of the gift, the head was said to come from Alba Fucens, east of Rome.

Credit Line

Gift of Mr. and Mrs. J. J. Klejman