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Identification and Creation
Object Number
Bearded Head
Other Titles
Former Title: Small Head of Zeus (?)
Work Type
sculpture, bust
1st-3rd century CE
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World
Roman period
Persistent Link
Physical Descriptions
Leaded bronze
Cast, lost-wax process
4.5 x 3.5 x 1.2 cm (1 3/4 x 1 3/8 x 1/2 in.)
Technical Details

Chemical Composition: XRF data from Artax 1
Alloy: Leaded Bronze
Alloying Elements: copper, tin, lead
Other Elements: iron, arsenic
K. Eremin, January 2014

Technical Observations: The patina is black with some small green and red areas on the back. Wax and adhesive have built up on some areas as well. Its mount, consisting of a blackened cork that is attached to a piece of brick, is clearly not original.

The bust was cast in one piece. It is not clear whether it is a fragment of a larger object. The back of the bust is flat, which suggests that it was originally made as part of a relief. The surface is very damaged: the chest seems faceted; it probably had been heavily mineralized and then cleaned. The hair is very worn; the curls are mere lumps. The face is badly flattened on the proper right side and nose.

Francesca G. Bewer (submitted 2012)

W. C. Burriss Young, Cambridge, MA, bequest; to the Harvard University Art Museums, 2002.
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Bequest of W.C. Burriss Young
Accession Year
Object Number
Asian and Mediterranean Art
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Published Catalogue Text: Ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern Bronzes at the Harvard Art Museums
This fragmentary bust depicts a bearded male with his head turned upward and slightly to his left (1). The hair is wavy, and the beard is rendered in puffy locks. Although the face is damaged and worn, the eyes and mouth are still visible. Drapery does not appear to have been rendered on the preserved part of the bust. The back is flat and featureless. The head is mounted rather crudely on a terracotta fragment.

The head is probably a fragment, but other similarly small busts are known (2). It is not clear, however, what the original object would have been, whether a furniture fitting, a portion of a statuette, or some type of applique; it could also be meant to represent any number of bearded individuals, such as philosophers, deities like Zeus or Poseidon, or even mortals from the Hadrianic period into the third century CE.


1. Very similar pieces can be seen in J. Debord, “Le faciès monétaire de Villeneuve-Saint-Germain et ses éléments de datation,” Gallia 52 (1996): 61-78, esp. 71-72, fig. 31.1; and M. G. Benedettini, Il Museo delle Antichità Etrusche e Italiche 3: I bronzi della collezione Gorga (Rome, 2012) 488, no. 1497.

2. Compare N. Zadoks-Josephus Jitta, W. J. T. Peters, and W. A. van Es, Roman Bronze Statuettes from the Netherlands 2: Statuettes Found South of the Limes (Groningen, 1969) 26-27, no. 12; M. T. Falconi Amorelli, ed., Todi preromana: Catalogo dei materiali conservati nel Museo Comunale di Todi (Todi, 1977) pl. 80.a; J. Bonnet, P. Velay, and P. Forni, Les bronzes antiques de Paris, Collections du Musée Carnavalet (Paris, 1989) 112, no. 46; A. Kaufmann-Heinimann, Götter und Lararien aus Augusta Raurica: Herstellung, Fundzusammenhänge und sakrale Funktion figürlicher Bronzen in einer römischen Stadt, Forschungen in Augst 26 (Augst, 1998) 123, no. 171; and P. Donevski, “Bronze Find at Durostorum,” in The Antique Bronzes: Typology, Chronology, Authenticity. The Acta of the 16th International Congress of Antique Bronzes, Organised by The Romanian National History Museum, Bucharest, May 26th-31st, 2003, ed. C. Muşeţeanu (Bucharest, 2004) 131-37, esp. 132, nos. 1-4.

Lisa M. Anderson

Subjects and Contexts

Ancient Bronzes

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