Statuette of an African boy orator
about 150–50 B.C.
Greek, Etruscan, & Roman Bronzes (MFA), no. 082; Sculpture in Stone and Bronze (MFA), p. 119 (additional published references).
Height: 8 cm (3 1/8 in.)
Medium or Technique
Not On View
A young Ethiopian (as Africans were known in ancient Greece) stands in the pose and garb of a Greek philosopher. He wears a knee length himation, wrapped around his left arm and his clenched left fist. His right hand once held something–a scroll? Perhaps he represents a young student who had come to a great Hellenistic city, Alexandria? This very fine statuette is a rare example of the integration of Africans into cosmopolitan Greek society.
The surfaces are delicately finished, with the fleecy hair, the face and the bent legs of the subject being carefully delineated. A pin in the middle of the back may be the result of a collector’s mounting in antiquity. The surface has undergone little corrosion in its history–small remnants of what might be original burial corrosion and accretions. The piece has not been repatinated.
By 1763-1764: said to have been found at Chalon-sur-Saône in an oak chest containing eighteen master bronzes and acquired by the Comte de Caylus; 1765: bequeathed with five others to the Duc de Caylus in 1765 and acquired from his descendant; by date unknown: with Mathias Komor, 19 East 71st Street, New York 21; purchased by MFA from Mathias Komor, January 8, 1959, for $ 800.00
John H. and Ernestine A. Payne Fund