Head of a woman

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About 200–100 BCE
30 x 19 x 21 cm
Yale University Art Gallery: Bequest of Adra M. Newell; 1967.34.24

In Greek and Roman female portraits, private women often imitated goddesses or queens in order to gain status and influence. This head, perhaps, echoes features of the goddess Aphrodite or the Egyptian ruler Cleopatra VII (reigned 69–30 BCE).  Although extensive damage and repairs, including a damaged nose and a missing section of hair, have made examinations of the head difficult, one can still see the resemblance to the two iconic figures.

The figure’s melon hairstyle and the beginnings of what was probably a slightly aquiline nose relate the head to portraits of Cleopatra VII who is shown with these features in her more ‘masculinized’ portraits, as in her portrait on a silver denarius in the British Museum.  At the same time, the portrait of a woman also has the classic turn of the head and soft facial features one finds in portraits of typical Greek women and of Aphrodite.  Cleopatra VII herself is sometimes depicted in this softer, more classical style.  Thus this head can be related to Cleopatra VII, although the lack of a diadem indicates it cannot be a portrait of the queen herself.

This text was prepared  by Adria Brown, Class of 2015, based on a paper for Professor Corrigan’s Art History 25: Roman Art.

Not on view


Additional views (4)

Back view

Side view A

Side view B

Front view B






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