Head of Athena

Object Details

Title:

Head of Athena

Artist/Maker(s):

Unknown

Culture:

Greek

Place(s):

South Italy (Place created)

Date:

about 420 B.C.

Medium:

Marble

Dimensions:

21 x 14.1 x 15.8 cm (8 1/4 x 5 9/16 x 6 1/4 in.)

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Not all Greek statues were made from a single material such as marble or bronze. This marble head is all that survives of a statue of the goddess Athena that would have been assembled from several materials. The unknown sculptor carved the parts of the body that represented exposed flesh–head, arms, feet–from marble, and then attached these to a body made out of another material, probably wood. This type of sculpture, called an acrolith by scholars, was produced most frequently in the Greek colonies in South Italy, where fine white marble had to be imported and was therefore very expensive.

The cuttings on the head help scholars reconstruct the statue's original appearance. A bronze helmet, a typical part of Athena's costume, would have hidden the fact that the top of the head was cut off. The rectangular cutting over each temple would have supported the raised cheekpieces of the helmet. The small holes drilled around the upper edge of the head probably held gilded locks of hair seen as falling out from under the helmet. Athena wore earrings in her pierced ears and her eyes were inlaid in a contrasting material.

Provenance
- 1982

Royal Athena Galleries (New York, New York), sold to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1982.

Bibliography

The J. Paul Getty Museum Handbook of the Collections. 1st ed. (Malibu: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1986), p. 30.

Pollini, John. "Acrolithic or Pseudo-acrolithic Sculpture of the Mature Classical Greek Period in the Archaeological Museum of the Johns Hopkins University," Classical Marble: Geochemistry, Technology, Trade. Dortrecht: 1988. pp. 207-217. pp. 211-12; figs. 10-12.

Hager-Weigel, Elisabeth. Griechische Akrolith-Statuen des 5. und 4. Jhs. v. Chr. Berlin 1997. pp. 38-40, 75, 266 no. 9, pl. 22-3.

Despinis, Giorgos I. "Zu Akrolithstatuen griechischer und römischer Zeit," Nachrichten der Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Göttingen, I. Philologisch-historische Klasse 2004.8 (2004) pp. 264-5.