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Bust of a Woman
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This image is available for download, without charge, under the Getty's Open Content Program.

Unknown
Roman, 25 B.C. - A.D. 25
Bronze and glass paste
6 1/2 x 2 5/8 in.
84.AB.59

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This exceptionally well-preserved bronze portrait bust depicts a young woman. The inlaid eyes made of glass paste are intact, which is rare for ancient bronze statues, but the gold earrings she originally wore have disappeared. She wears her hair in the complicated braided and knotted style popular during the reign of the emperor Augustus. Such detailing in the hair required much engraving and reworking of the head after it was cast.

The Romans had a long tradition of portraiture, since images of ancestors played a part in funerary ritual. Portraits of ancestors were kept and displayed at home; a miniature portrait such as this probably would have stood in a private household shrine. Portraits signaled the social status of both their subjects and those who commissioned them. On certain occasions throughout the year, portraits of ancestors were displayed in public, attesting to the long-standing importance of the family.