Fragment of a Female Head

100/70 BC

Height 25 cm



The period between the Persian Wars and Alexander the Great’s Wars of Conquest is regarded as the acme of ancient Greek art. This phase in the fifth and fourth centuries BC has come to be known as the “classical age” of ancient Greece. However, because very few of its original artworks have survived, European art lovers have had to construct their own image of the period, an image decisively marked by later revivals. Thus, the actual classical period is closely followed by a first period of “classicism”: just two hundred years later come the first attempts to imitate and emulate its idealized forms. A second classicist movement emerged not long after, under the early Roman Empire, sparked by the emperor Augustus.

Thus, it is hardly surprising that this beautiful marble head, whose sideward turn is marked by sentiment and “exalted repose”, was originally thought to be a work of the fifth or fourth century BC, or classical period. Today, we are able to recognize from the close positioning of the eyes and the slender face atop a powerful neck that it was produced in the first century BC in a classicist pose from the late phase of ancient Greek culture. The features are elegant and clearly delineated, and the mouth is slightly open, as if seeking to give expression to a feeling. The cheeks and forehead are stretched and tranquil surfaces. Today, the eyes appear to be turned inward. Originally, however, they were painted to show the specific direction of their gaze. The skin was also painted with shading to produce an impression of natural life.