Portrait Head of an Old Man

Object Details

Title:

Portrait Head of an Old Man

Artist/Maker(s):

Unknown

Culture:

Roman

Place(s):

Italy (Place created)

Date:

25 B.C. - A.D. 10

Medium:

Marble

Dimensions:

34.9 x 17.7 x 24.7 cm (13 3/4 x 6 15/16 x 9 3/4 in.)

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The years around the turn of the first century were a time of great change in Roman society. After a period of political upheaval, Augustus established the Roman Empire in 27 B.C. bringing enormous shifts in all aspects of Roman life and art.

In a time when Augustus's court artists were creating sculpture carved in an ageless, classicizing style, this portrait of an old man harks back to the style of portraiture popular in the earlier Republican period. The man's close-cropped hair, furrowed brow, the bags under his eyes, and his sagging cheeks convey a sense of austerity and a sort of "warts and all" realism. Such Roman portraits were intended to embody societal values, such as gravitas (dedication to civic duty) and virtus (excellence of character), rather than reproduce an individual's exact appearance.

Although now broken at the edges of the base, the head originally formed part of a small bust. It may have been sculpted for insertion in a burial niche in a family tomb.

Provenance
1977 - 1987

Jeanette Brun (Zurich, Switzerland), sold to Lawrence Fleischman, 1987.

1987 - 1996

Barbara Fleischman

and Lawrence Fleischman, American, 1925 - 1997 (New York, New York), sold to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1996.

Exhibitions
Gesichter: Griechische und römische Bildnisse aus Schweizer Besitz (November 06, 1982 - February 06, 1983)
  • Bernisches Historisches Museum, (Bern), November 6, 1982 to February 6, 1983
A Passion for Antiquities: Ancient Art from the Collection of Barbara and Lawrence Fleischman (October 13, 1994 to April 23, 1995) (177)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum, (Malibu), October 13, 1994 to January 15, 1995
  • The Cleveland Museum of Art, (Cleveland), February 14 to April 23, 1995
Bibliography

"Notable Works of Art Now on the Market." Burlington Magazine 119, no. 897 (December 1977). pl. 1.

Jucker, Hans, and Dietrich Willers, eds. Gesichter. Griechische und roemische Bildnisse aus schweizer Besitz. Exh. cat., Bernischen Historischen Museum, November 6, 1982-February 6, 1983. Bern: 1982. p. 63, no. 21.

True, Marion, and Kenneth Hamma, eds. A Passion For Antiquities. Ancient Art from the Collection of Barbara and Lawrence Fleischman. The J. Paul Getty Museum. Malibu: 1994. pp. 334-36, cat. no. 177.

"Museum Acquisitions Between July 1, 1996, and June 30, 1998." The Report of the J. Paul Getty Trust, 1997-1998. p. 63.

Frank, Patrick. Prebles' Artforms (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall Publishing, 2011), p.233, pl. 15.9. This is the tenth edition for this textbook.