The J. Paul Getty Museum

Head of a Priest or Saint

Object Details


Head of a Priest or Saint






Asia Minor (Place Created)


about A.D. 400



Object Number:



28.3 × 15.5 × 21 cm (11 1/8 × 6 1/8 × 8 1/4 in.)

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Object Description

With his piercing gaze, the man represented in this Late Antique sculpture may have been a priest or a saint. The man's forehead creases in soft furrows, his hair and beard fall in uniform waves, and his thin lips are pressed tightly shut. The unknown sculptor has rendered the ears in a simple fashion without any inner elements. And the pupils of the eyes are drilled out in deep, rough circles. These stylistic features link the sculpture with works produced in Constantinople in the early 400s. The sculpture represents the transition from Late Antique to Byzantine art.

In the 400s, sculpture was not a popular art form. This head was carved as an independent element for insertion into a separately carved body. The unfinished back of the head and the highly visible, deeply drilled eyes suggest that this piece was probably part of an architectural sculptural group designed to be viewed from a distance.

by 1982 - 1985

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


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. (n.p.: unpublished, 1984), cat. no. 26.

"Acquisitions/1985." The J. Paul Getty Museum Journal 14 (1986), p. 183, no. 12.

Frel, Jiří. "The Portraits of Demetrios Polioketes by Lysippos and Teisikrates." In Studia Varia (Rome: Bretschneider, 1994), "Ancient Repairs of Some Sculptures" p. 67, no. 12. Cited without inv. no.

Danguillier, C. Typologische Untersuchungen zur Dichter- und Denkerikonographie in römischen Darstellungen von der mittleren Kaiserzeit bis in die Spätantike. BAR International Series 977. (Oxford : Archaeopress, 2001), pp. 138-39, 243 cat. no. 83.

Grossman, Janet Burnett. Looking at Greek and Roman Sculpture in Stone (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2003), pp. 41, 46 ill.

Prusac, Marina. From Face to Face. Recarving of Roman Portraits and the Late-Antique Portrait Arts. Monumenta Graeca et Romana 18 (Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2011), p. 156, no. 468.

Kovacs, Martin. Kaiser, Senatoren und Gelehrte : Untersuchungen zum spätantiken männlichen Privatporträt. (Wiesbaden : Reichert, 2014), p. 113-114, 281-282, no. B 89, pl. 49,4.