A Roman marble portrait head of a young man
Lot 103
A Roman marble portrait head of a young man
Sold for £ 32,500 (US$ 45,072) inc. premium

Antiquities

28 Nov 2017, 10:30 GMT

London, New Bond Street

Lot Details
A Roman marble portrait head of a young man
A Roman marble portrait head of a young man
Late Republican-Early Augustan, circa 50 B.C.- A.D.37
Depicted life-sized and slightly frowning, with heavy-lidded almond-shaped eyes set beneath arching brows, a shapely mouth with full, slightly-parted lips, and rounded chin, his hair brushed forward with curling locks at the forehead and temples, the back separately carved and now missing, 26cm high

Footnotes

  • Provenance:
    Ugo Donati (1897-1967) collection, Lugano, acquired in the 1940s, and thence by descent to Gianni Donati, Lugano, and then to Dr Nicola Donati, Lugano.
    Private collection, UK, acquired from the above in 2012.

    The present lot is a powerful portrait of a young Roman elite male dating to the most tumultuous period of Roman history, which began with the forming of the Second Triumvirate in 43 B.C. and ended with the accepted supremacy of the Julio-Claudian dynasty. The extraordinary political changes afoot in Rome in this period were mirrored in private portraiture, which reflected the merging of the established and emerging artistic movements: the austere verism of the late Republican period, and the idealism of Augustan classicism. The stern countenance of the frowning young male who is the subject of the present lot evinces a late Republican influence, and recalls contemporary portraits of Marcus Agrippa, close friend and eventual son-in-law of Augustus (see Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, I.N. 1555, for an Agrippa portrait dating to 30-20 B.C. which shares the heavy brow and fleshy, parted lips of the present lot).

    The cavity, chiselling, and iron dowel at the back of the head are clear indications that the back section of the head was made separately. In addition, the rough surface and small iron dowel at the rim of the left ear indicate that this section was also carved separately and attached. This rough working of the marble suggests that the sculptor created the portrait out of an irregular piece of marble, a practice not uncommon in Roman portraiture. Since heads of this sort were regularly placed in niches or against a wall, the back sides would not have been seen.

    The manner in which the concave base of the neck has been carved and the partially preserved rounded rim of the neck (still evident on the lower left side) suggest that this portrait was not once part of a full length statue or a bust, but was carved only as a head, possibly to be mounted on a herm, or pillar.
Activities
Auction information

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25% on the first £175,000 of the hammer price
20% on the excess of £175,001 and up to £3,000,000 of the hammer price
12.5% on the excess of £3,000,001 of the hammer price

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Contacts
  1. Serena Zaccaron
    Auction administration - Antiquities
    Bonhams
    Work
    101 New Bond Street
    London, United Kingdom W1S 1SR
    Work +44 20 7468 8332
  2. Francesca Hickin
    Specialist - Antiquities
    Bonhams
    Work
    101 New Bond Street
    London, United Kingdom W1S 1SR
    Work +44 20 7468 8226
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