• r2-95-10
    Over-lifesize portrait of a man, frontal view. (©Archaeological Exploration of Sardis/President and Fellows of Harvard College)
  • r2-95-20
    Over-lifesize portrait of a man, right profile view. (©Archaeological Exploration of Sardis/President and Fellows of Harvard College)

Over-Lifesize Portrait of a Man

Early 6th C., Roman
Sardis or Museum Inv. No.
Marble, Stone
Object Type
Sculpture Type
Syn W 66
B-Grid Coordinates
E22.25 / N12.4 *97.49
BE-C, just inside and W of door in Gymnasium.

The head is worked in one piece with the neck for insertion into the statue. The underside of the neck and collar is carved on a curving slant, and with very rough chiseling. The back of the head and neck have been summarily cut with a flat chisel, suggesting that the piece was trimmed down for insertion into a preexisting statue. A dowel hole (diam. 0.025; D. 0.062) is cut in the underside of the neck.

This portrait of a man is wreathed by hair which radiates from the crown in long locks. These locks end in two rows of spiraling curls which frame the face. The forehead is low, the chin large. Ear lobes are barely indicated. The rather flat, elongated eyes, cut with a chisel but not drilled, are asymmetrical. The r. eye curves more and has a very steep flat lower lid, but no real upper lid. The inner corner is more deeply sunk than the outer corner. The l. eye (damaged) is much fatter, as seen by the incised top line of the lower lid. The eyes are outlined, and the lips divided by a thin chisel line. The mouth is arched with corners pulled down. The upper lip projects over the lower. There is a wrinkle on each side from the nostrils to the mouth; these wrinkles are not straight, but have a slight inward curve. Only the r. wrinkle is well preserved. From both ears to the center of the chin is a series of light strokes which indicate a linear beard. The median line parting the beard is visible on the underside of the chin, where the direction of strokes reverses itself.

A full discussion of this head has already appeared in an article by Hanfmann (”Late Portraits,” 291-295) in which he compares it to early Byzantine heads from Ephesus and Aphrodisias. The portrait stands as testimony to the outstanding individuality and character of a still-thriving school of Sardian sculptors in the early 6th C.

Total H. 0.39, of head 0.28, of face 0.175; W. of hair wreath 0.28, of cheeks 0.165
See Also
Published: BASOR187, 20, fig. 44; Hanfmann, Late Portraits, 291-295; Hanfmann, Letters, 195, fig. 143; Sardis M4, fig. 3; S. Sande, Porträtplastik, 81ff., figs. 19-21 (cites a number of good parallels).