Marble Head of the Goddess Artemis

SKU LA.572



1st Century AD


16″ (40.6cm) high




Roman Empire

Gallery Location



Roman life-size marble head of Artemis, with centrally parted hair, based on the Greek Attic Artemis Colonna type of the 4th c. BC.

The Artemis Colonna is a majestic creation featuring the goddess of the hunt as an elegantly draped figure with bow in hand and quiver on the back. The composition of the head is powerful, its physiognomy replete with the idealized quality characteristic of Greek classical sculpture. This classic influence is best seen in the perfect almond-shaped eyes with their sharply carved lids as well as the smooth contour of the face. However the ample volume of the lips as well as the slight sideways twist of the head show a certain dynamism which begins to appear in the 4th c. BC sculpture.

The goddess’ coiffure, held in place by a diadem, is exquisitely rendered. The hair, composed of wavy strands, has a wonderful plastic quality. This rich handling of the coiffure and the smooth quality of the goddess’ face suggest a date sometime during the Hadrianic or early Antonine periods.

The present head was carved from one piece of marble altogether with its neck. The treatment of the bottom of the neck suggests that the head was designed to be inserted in the goddess’ body. Unusually complete and well-preserved this is one of only a few heads of this type to have come down to us. There is some chipping above the left eye and the lip and nose are restored.

In this magnificent head, a Roman artist of exceptional talent recreated an important Greek masterpiece for a sophisticated clientele, which included the Imperial family and many wealthy individuals. Now as then, this remarkable sculpture captures the Greek 4th century aesthetic as it tries to move beyond the confines of the classical spirit and illustrate a more expressive and vibrant humanity.

For a similar head see M. B Comstock and C. C. Vermeule, Sculpture in Stone: The Greek, Roman and Etruscan Collections of the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, Boston 1976: no. 103, pp. 64-65, which includes further information on the type and standard bibliography. The Artemis Colonna sculptural type is also discussed in Bieber, Ancient Copies: p.88, pls. 60-61.

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