Head of Hades

Object Details


Head of Hades




Greek (Sicilian)


Morgantina, Sicily, Italy (Place created)

Morgantina, Sicily, Italy (Place found)


about 400 - 300 B.C.


Terracotta and polychromy


27.3 x 20.5 x 18.5 cm (10 3/4 x 8 1/16 x 7 5/16 in.)

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Broken off of a statue or a bust, this terracotta head of a god is a type of representation favored by artists in the Greek colonies in Sicily and South Italy. Good-quality white marble had to be imported into these colonies. Therefore, unlike their compatriots in mainland Greece, Sicilian sculptors frequently used the medium of terracotta for large-scale work.

This god, probably Hades the king of the Underworld, has a rich beard and a head of curls that were made separately. The hollow head was formed by hand, and the individually shaped corkscrew curls were attached before the piece was fired. Traces of pigment remain on the head--red on the hair, blue on the beard, and pink on the face--giving some idea of its original vivid appearance. A deep incision delineates the almond-shaped eyes and probably held inserted metal lashes.

This head was previously thought to depict Zeus, the king of the gods, who is called "blue bearded" in the Homeric poems, but is now believed to represent his brother, Hades, king of the Underworld, based on its association with finds from the ancient city of Morgantina, Sicily. The local religion there centered on the cult of Demeter and her daughter Persephone, whose abduction by Hades was the ancients' explanation for the changing of the seasons. The myth is believed to have taken place in Sicily at Lake Pergusa, not far from Morgantina.

by 1982 - 1985

Maurice Tempelsman (New York, New York), sold through Robin Symes (London, England) to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1985.

The Color of Life (March 6 to June 23, 2008) (20)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Villa, (Malibu), March 6 to June 23, 2008
Sanctuaries of Demeter and Persephone at Morgantina (April 14, 2012 to January 21, 2013) (20)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Villa, (Malibu), April 14, 2012 to January 21, 2013
SICILY: Art and Invention between Greece and Rome (April 3, 2013 to June 15, 2014) (20)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Villa, (Malibu), April 3 to August 19, 2013
  • The Cleveland Museum of Art, (Cleveland), September 29, 2013 to January 5, 2014

Vermeule, Cornelius C. Catalogue of a Collection of Greek, Etruscan and Roman Antiquities Formed by a Private Collector in New York City During the Past Several Decades. (1984). Unpublished. cat. no. 11.

"Acquisitions/1985." The J. Paul Getty Museum Journal 14 (1986) p. 186-87, no. 19.

The Color of Life: Polychromy in Sculpture from Antiquity to the Present, ed. by Roberta Panzanelli with Eike D. Schmidt and Kenneth Lapatin, Los Angeles, 2008 pp. 136-37, no. 20.

The J. Paul Getty Museum Handbook of the Antiquities Collection. Rev. ed. (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2010) p. 117.

Lyons, Claire L., Michael Bennett, and Clemente Marconi, eds. Sicily: Art and Invention between Greece and Rome (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2013) p. 192, ill.