Classical Antiquities :
Classical Masterpieces : Roman Marble Bust of a Man
Roman Marble Bust of a Man - P.3360
5" (12.7cm) high
x 2.75" (7.0cm) wide
Additional Information: Found in Bethany, Israel
Location: Great Britain
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Marble head sculpted in the round; head, tilted
upwards and cocked left slightly; small, wide-set
eyes with incised pupils gaze in left direction
beneath creased brow; prominent nose with flaring
nostrils and full lips; ample chin and thick neck;
mounted on perspex stand.
This marble head of a middle-aged Roman man was
found in the small village of Bethany, just outside
Jerusalem, which at this time formed a part of the
Roman province of Judea.
Provincial sculpture in many ways follows the
imperial examples. His features typify Roman
sculpture of the period and marks the breakdown in
the relationship between Roman sculpture and
Classical Greece, the exemplar of Classical Greek
sculpture having been transmitted to Republican
Rome by Hellenistic sources and representing the
lingua franca among artisans thereafter until 2nd
century ACE. When the Roman centres of production
operated in the regions of the old Hellenistic ones,
holding fast to the rationality and naturalism of
traditional Greek art.
A break from classic Greek ideals and beginnings of
a new formal language first occured under the
Antonines of 2nd century (ACE 138-193). Faces
assume languishing expressions, imparted mostly,
as we see here, by upturned, side-glancing eyes
coupled with very thick upper eyelids. The close-
cropped hair was adopted on sculpture under
Caracalla (ACE 198-217). The military anarchy and
economic and spiritual crisis of 3rd century ACE
fueled this shift and there was a complete break
from hellenic idealism.
While, not naturalistic in its representation, we do
see a hint of realism that typified earlier Roman art
in the furrowed brow, which also, places this pieces
firmly amid the torment of this deeply troubled age.
The hair is rendered in short and shallow incisions
made by a pointed chisel or burin.
Sculpture was either commissioned by the State or
private individuals. This is likely to be the latter.
Prominent among these are the portraits, whether
busts or statues, of private individuals, funerary
sculpture including sarcophagi, and miniature
statuary, both in stone and bronze. This type of
sculpture was intended for private use, whether it
was purely decorative, religious or even