Marble bust of a bearded man

Period: Mid-Imperial, Antonine

Date: ca. A.D. 150–175

Culture: Roman

Medium: Marble

Dimensions: H. 22 in. (55.9 cm)

Classification: Stone Sculpture

Credit Line: Rogers Fund, 1998

Accession Number: 1998.209


This masterful portrait bust represents a vigorous middle-aged man who turns his head slightly to his right and stares into the distance with a critical, penetrating gaze. The broad, square face is carefully modeled; wide furrows cut into the low forehead and at the corners of the eyes add to the intensity of the expression. One assumes that the sitter was a contemporary man in the guise of a thinker, rather than this being a portrait of a practicing philosopher.
The style of the sculpture is firmly rooted in the Hadrian (r. A.D. 117–38), but the elegant, restrained calm associated with the best Hadrianic production has been replaced by expressive, forceful agitation, a trait first encountered in the Antonine period (A.D. 138–93) (33.11.3). The work is a splendid example of psychological portraiture and exudes a sense of abrupt nervousness that finds close parallels in other Antonine characterizations.
The back of the bust was not hollowed out to provide for a supporting pillar and base. Moreover, the lower edge of the bust approximates the segment of a circle close to two feet in diameter. One may thus conclude that the bust was an imago clipeata (circular portrait bust), originally framed within a circular molding and intended to be viewed from below.