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.