Portrait head of a man

c. 130–145 CE
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General Description

This Roman head is of the finest quality of the imperial workshops in the late Hadrianic or early Antonine period. The emperor Hadrian had begun a fashion for portraying himself bearded like a Greek philosopher. His love of things Greek led to a revival of classical Greek style applied to typical Roman art forms like state reliefs and portraits of distinguished Romans. This elegant style continued under Hadrian's successor, Antoninus Pius. The bravura carving of this splendid head, with its pensive expression and subtle contrast between the light beard and curly hair is close to portraits of Antoninus Pius, though with more character than the stolid-appearing emperor.

This portrait head of a man contrasts strongly with the DMA's Head of a young man (1984.163), though they are close to each other in date. The depiction of an older man—mature, serious, and quiet, contrasts with the softer, more sensuous treatment of the marble of the youth. The lines of the bearded man add to the sense of dignity and wisdom through life experience.

Adapted from

  • Bonnie Pitman, ed., Dallas Museum of Art: A Guide to the Collection (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2012), 141.

  • Anne Bromberg, DMA Label copy, April 2001.

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