Head of a Young Boy
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Roman, A.D. 150 - 200
8 11/16 x 8 x 7 1/2 in.

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Captured in the motion of turning his head, the boy portrayed in this Roman portrait exudes the energy and alertness of youth. The head, as seen today, was not intended to be a complete work, but broken from a full-length life-size statue. Portraits of children became more common in Roman art in the later 100s A.D., but the unusual feature of this sculpture is that the child, portrayed in such a sensitive and observant manner, is African. Few Roman portraits of blacks rise beyond racial caricature. Here, the asymmetry in the cheeks and the boy's concentrated gaze create the impression that an individual personality is being portrayed. Several features of this portrait are characteristic of Roman sculpture in this period, including the interest in depicting movement and the contrast of the smooth skin and the deeply drilled hair.