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Marble head of a youthful god: the 'Aberdeen Head'

 

Height: 30.000 cm

GR 1862.8-17.1 (Sculpture 1600)

Room 20: Greeks and Lycians

    Marble head of a youthful god: the 'Aberdeen Head'

    Greek, late Classical or early Hellenistic period, about 325-280 BC

    A rare original Greek sculpture of the late Classical or early Hellenistic period

    Much of what we know of Greek sculpture is based on copies of the Roman period, so this original and beautifully carved Greek head is a rarity. The head has historically been associated with the schools of two famous fourth-century sculptors, Praxiteles and Skopas. Though no precise connection can be proved, the sculptor who carved this head was clearly influenced by the great master sculptors of the late Classical period.

    The subject is usually identified as a the messenger god Hermes or a youthful Herakles, but without certainty. However, the head is certainly an idealized image, whether of a god or man. The features are superbly modelled, with a heavy brow overhanging deep-set eyes, and fleshy cheeks merging gently into the nose and mouth. The rather sensitive treatment of the face is enhanced by the slightly parted lips, and the head is tilted, so the eyes gaze downwards with a dreamy expression. The head originally wore a metal wreath, for which the dowel holes survive. Gods wore such wreaths, but so did rulers and athletes crowned after a victory.

    The head was formerly in the collection of George Hamilton Gordon, fourth Earl of Aberdeen (1784–1860), a British Tory politician and prime minister from 1852 until 1855.

    L. Burn, The British Museum book of G-1, revised edition (London, The British Museum Press, 1999)

    A. Stewart, Greek sculpture: an exploratio (New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 1990)

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    On display: Room 20: Greeks and Lycians

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