Portrait of a man
Marble.
Ca. 50 BCE.
Rome, Torlonia Museum

Portrait of a man.

Marble.
Ca. 50 BCE.

Rome, Torlonia Museum
(Roma, Museo Torlonia)

Private collection, Torlonia.
Origin:
From Otricoli.
Description:
One of the masterpieces of republican portraiture in marble is the head of an unknown man, probably a patrician, from near Otricoli (fig. 16). Although the authenticity of the head is sometimes questioned, it appears to be ancient and dates to about 50 B.C. Although the artist has lavished as much attention on facial detail as did the creator of the terracotta from Cumae, the Otricoli portrait is devoid of the Hellenistic torsion and lively animation of the head from Cumae. The Otricoli head is frontally positioned, and the man’s expression is somber. Every wrinkle and every fold of flesh of the unknown man is carefully delineated by an artist who created an almost topographic map of the face. The forehead is deeply furrowed, and there are creases over the nose. Heavy folds of flesh overlap the upper eyelids, and there are sagging bags under the eyes. The man’s cheeks are deeply marred by receding folds and deep creases etch his cheeks. His neck is lined with a series of concentric wrinkles. The man is balding although the hair on the back of his head is carved in thin strands toward his ears and down his neck. Nonetheless, the Otricoli head is a powerful portrait of a republican noble with a large hooked nose, strong jutting chin, and high cheekbones and is too lifelike to be based on ancestral death masks. Rather, it illustrates the Roman republican interest in recording reality by delineating exactly a person’s individual facial features, which was a parallel development to the interest in making death or life masks. In the Otricoli portrait, however, the artist’s preoccupation with detail seems to have become an end in itself. Although the artist’s basic goal was undoubtedly to create a veristic image of a specific person, the furrows and wrinkles, which stand for the experience and wisdom of the sitter, become the subject of the work of art. Only mature men and women were considered to be worthy subjects of portraiture in the late republic; there are no surviving republican portraits of youths or children.
Credits:
© 1992. Photo, text: Diana E. E. Kleiner. Roman sculpture. Yale University Press New Haven & London. P. 38, fig. 16.
© Photo: DAIR 1933. 58.
Keywords: γλυπτική sculptura sculpture sculptural scultura skulptur ρωμαϊκό roman romana romano romani römisch römische römisches römischen römischer romain romaine romains romaines αυτοκρατορικό imperial imperiale kaiserliches impérial ρωμαίος αυτοκράτορας σέρβιος σουλπίκιος γάλβας imperator servius sulpicius galba emperor imperatore servio sulpicio kaiser empereur άγνωστος unknown ignoto unbekannter inconnu απεικόνιση portrait portraiture ritratto ritrattistica porträtmalerei porträt κεφάλι κεφαλή head testa kopf tête προτομή bust busto büste buste marble marmor marmo male maschile männliches männlicher portraitkopf old man from otricoli cat no 533 dair 1933 58
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