The J. Paul Getty Museum

Herm of Menander

Object Details


Herm of Menander






A.D. 1–100



Object Number:



51.5 × 32 × 22.6 cm (20 1/4 × 12 5/8 × 8 7/8 in.)

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Object Description

The Greek comic playwright Menander (about 342 to 291 B.C.), is represented in this Roman portrait. The face shows lofty eyebrows, a thin, long nose and fleshy lips. His short hair is comprised of comma shaped locks that cover his broad forehead. The portrait copies the head of a bronze statue by the Greek artists Kephisodotos the Younger and his brother Timarchos (both active 340-290 B.C.), the sons of the famed sculptor Praxiteles. The Roman writer Pausanias mentions the original statue, which was set up as a commemorative monument in the Theater of Dionysos in Athens shortly after Menander's death. The portrait is known from several other versions of the statue, and the occasional example inscribed with his name confirms the identification of all of these versions as Menander.  

This particular portrait would have surmounted a pillar (a type of statue known as a herm) and likely stood in the garden of a Roman villa. Developed by the Greeks, herms originally supported the head of the god Hermes and served a protective function. They were set up at physical boundaries, such as crossroads or even doorways, as sites of ritual and worship. The Romans later adapted the Greek concept of the herm, using it for non-religious, decorative purposes. The heads on Roman examples are often portraits of famous people. The numerous surviving portraits of Menander indicate the great appeal of his comedies among Roman audiences.

by 1970 - 1971

Royal Athena Galleries (New York, New York), sold to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1971.

Selected Works from the Ancient Art Collection of the John Paul Getty Museum, Malibu, California, (May 29 to July 10, 1971)
  • Hetzel Union Gallery (State College), May 29 to July 10, 1971
Beyond Beauty: Antiquities as Evidence (December 16, 1997 to January 17, 1999)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), December 16, 1997 to January 17, 1999

Selected Works from the Ancient Art Collection of the J. Paul Getty Museum, Malibu, California, exh. cat. (University Park: The Pennsylvania State University College of Arts and Architecture, 1971), no. 4.

Frel, Jirí, and Elizabeth Buckley. Greek and Roman Portraits in the J. Paul Getty Museum. exh. cat. California State University at Northridge, October 16-November 11, 1973 (1973), no. 6.

Vermeule, Cornelius, and Norman Neuerberg. Catalogue of the Ancient Art in the J. Paul Getty Museum (Malibu: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1973), pp. 9-10, no. 16.

Fredericksen, Burton B., ed. The J. Paul Getty Museum: Greek and Roman Antiquities, Western European Paintings, French Decorative Arts of the Eighteenth Century (Malibu: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1975), p. 41.

Fredericksen, Burton B., Jiří Frel, and Gillian Wilson. Guidebook: The J. Paul Getty Museum. 4th ed. Sandra Morgan, ed. (Malibu: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1978), p. 62.

Frel, Jiří. Antiquities in the J. Paul Getty Museum: A Checklist; Sculpture II: Greek Portraits and Varia (Malibu: J. Paul Getty Museum, November 1979), p. 9, no. G25.

Frel, Jiří. Greek Portraits in the J. Paul Getty Museum (Malibu: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1981), pp. 83-85, 115, no. 35.

Schmalz, B. Das Bildnis des Epikur un die Uberlieferung griechischen Portrats, Marburger Winckelmann-Programm, 1985, p. 47, ill. n. 82.

Fittschen, Klaus. "Zur Rekonstruktion griechischer Dichterstatuen. 1. Teil: Die Statue des Menander," Mitteilungen des Deutschen Archaeologischen Instituts, Athenische Abteilung, vol. 106 (1991), pp. 243-279, p. 247, cat. no. 24.