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Sculptural Portrait of a Roman

30s BC

Bronze; h 39 cm

This bronze bust, an important part of the Hermitage exhibition, was created in the 30s BC by an unidentified sculptor who has become known as 'the Ermitage-Meister'. It was probably part of a herma with a stone base. Despite the lack of inlay or coloured stones, the expression of deep grief and the sorrowful mood are so well conveyed that it is difficult to find another work of Roman art which equals this. In accordance with Greek tradition, this Roman has grown a beard and moustache to display grief at some tragic event or in mourning for a relation.

The sculptor worked at a time when Roman sculptural portraiture was still taking shape and the traditions of Hellenic, Greek and Etrusco-Italian art were being combined and superceded. In this work the author created a harmonious combination of the accurate representation of the sitter, a tradition inherited from the Etrusco-Italians, with the soft modelling and desire to convey inner qualities which were characteristic of Hellenic sculptors. From representations on coins the subject can be identified as Sextus Pompeius.

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