Portrait of a woman

Late Imperial Period
late 3rd century

Catalogue Raisonné

Sculpture in Stone (MFA), no. 380; Sculpture in Stone and Bronze (MFA), p. 116 (additional published references).


Overall: 27.5cm (10 13/16in.) Mount (Bolts onto pedestal / opens at back of pedestal): 30.5 x 35.6 cm (12 x 14 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Marble from Göktepe, Turkey (near Aphrodisias)

On View

Antioch Mosaic Gallery (Gallery 214)


The Ancient World



The portrait head depicts a woman who turns to her right. The lady’s hair is arranged in tight little curls over her forehead, and, after it passes the ears, it becomes enmeshed with false locks in a net, all of which is brought up into the roll that sits above the forehead. Most of the hair is carefully defined with flat chisel work. The curls around the brow are punctuated by drill points. These were made after the full rendering of the hair with flat chisel.

The broad braid of hair is folded up over the top of the head in the fashion of the second half of the third and the early fourth centuries AD. The hairstyle is defined in the stable and emphatic terms that came to dominate as Roman society was militarized and reorganized in the earlier fourth century. The asymmetrical wrinkles added awkwardly between the eyebrows, on the other hand, convey the sense of anxiety pervasive in the age of crisis of the middle and later third century AD.

The head has broken unevenly around the base of the neck. The nose, chin, and left edge of the hair roll are broken. The surfaces had an incrustation of root marks, now partly cleaned. The remaining patina is a light yellow or grayish brown.

Scientific Analysis:

University of South Florida Lab No. 8444: Isotope ratios - delta13C +2.3 / delta18O -3.5,

Istituto di Struttura della Materia - CNR Lab No. 9 (January 30, 2012): maximum grain size: 0.5mm; electron paramagnetic resonance: intensity 24.8%, line width 53.3%; Sr 795 ppm.

Attribution - Göktepe 4, Turkey (near Aphrodisias). Justification - C and O isotopes, fine grain, pure white, rather low EPR intensity, high Sr.

Probability of correct quarry assignment (Istituto di Struttura della Materia - CNR Lab No. 9; January 30, 2012):

distance of sample from center of quarry probability field: 2.9; relative probability: 98%; absolute probability 58%


By date unknown: with Robert E. Hecht, Jr. (according to entry 380 in Sculpture in Stone: from Rome); September 19, 1962: purchased by MFA from Robert E. Hecht, Jr. for $ 1,700-

Credit Line

William E. Nickerson Fund