Portrait of a small boy

Roman
Imperial Period
about A.D. 50


Catalogue Raisonné

Sculpture in Stone (MFA), no. 341; Sculpture in Stone and Bronze (MFA), p. 114 (additional published references).

Dimensions

Overall: 24.6 × 14.9 × 10.8 cm (9 11/16 × 5 7/8 × 4 1/4 in.)

Accession Number

01.8202

Medium or Technique

Marble, seemingly from the Greek islands

Out on Loan

On display at Musée des Beaux-Arts, Lyon, December 1, 2018 – March 4, 2019

Collections

The Ancient World

Classifications

Sculpture

Portrait bust of small boy two or three years old. The head is slightly turned to the right and the bust is draped. The hair is combed over the forehead in straight bangs. The bust was probably inserted in a shaft as indicated by the tenon and plaster visible on the underside.

Portraits of small children were popular in the Julio-Claudian period, but the fact that the bust is draped and includes more of the breast than is usual suggests that the portrait is to be dated in the later period. Portraits of the very young Nero (or Britannicus) about A.D. 50 parallel this likeness of an anonymous child in arrangement of the hair, drapery, and in stylistic details. A bust of a baby boy in Copenhagen, originally from the tomb of the Licinian family at Rome, has a general form and specific details that hardly differ from those of the Boston boy, emphasizing the timeless qualities of these early imperial child portraits. The Copenhagen portrait has been dated either to about 25 B.C. or A.D. 40.

Only the tip of the nose is missing; the edges of the drapery and cheeks show slight damage. The shiny, slightly pitted surface indicates that the bust was treated with acid. The locks on the nape were recut to remove thick, brownish accretions.

Provenance

By 1901, purchased in Naples by Edward Perry Warren (b. 1860 - d. 1928), London [see note]; 1901, sold by Edward Perry Warren to the MFA. (Accession Date: December 1, 1901)

NOTE: According to Warren's records.

Credit Line

Henry Lillie Pierce Fund