A Greek inscription on the base of this bust identifies the figure as Menander (about 342-291 B.C.). The portrait, which depicts a clean-shaven, lean-faced man with high cheekbones and a tall, rectangular forehead, is one of more than sixty surviving Roman portraits of the Athenian playwright. All of these appear to derive from a common source, and stylistic features indicate that the model was the head of a statue of Menander made by Kephisodotos the Younger and his brother Timarchos (both active about 340-290 B.C.), sons of the famous Greek sculptor Praxiteles (active 375-340 B.C.). The original statue, now lost, once stood in the Theater of Dionysos in Athens. It was commissioned at the time of his death, and his plays continued to be staged at Athens in revivals.
Menander's comedies, and in turn his portrait, experienced a resurgence of popularity with the Romans. His works were imitated and adapted by playwrights such as Plautus (about 254-184 B.C.) and Terence (about 190-159 B.C.). Portraits of him were often used as decoration in villas, where his presence attested to the owner’s culture and learning.