Head of a young boy

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About 20 BCE–60 CE
Hood Museum of Art: Gift of Mrs. William Dexter; S.965.90.14

This portrait of a young boy was likely produced in the Julio-Claudian era (27 BCE–68 CE) during which representations of children were often used in propagandistic art. The transition from the republican to imperial period resulted in a form of government that was essentially a hereditary monarchy. In such a system the use of children was likely to established political legitimacy by depicting the physical continuity of the imperial lineage.

The hairstyle of this young boy is characteristic of the era and especially similar to portraits of emperors Claudius (41–54 CE) and Nero (54–68 CE), with the hair combed straight over the forehead and parted in the center. The eyes are also sculpted in a strikingly similar manner to the portrait of an adolescent Nero from the Louvre Museum in Paris, France (see below), supporting the possibility that this boy may have been a member of the imperial family or even young Nero himself. The extended portion at the back of head indicates that it may have been part of a larger sculptural relief. The asymmetry of the ears also seems to suggest that the boy would have been installed and viewed at an angle from the front.

This text was prepared by Mellon Special Project Curatorial Intern Kasia Vincunas.

Not on view

 Additional views (3)

Side view A

Back view

Side view B


Related exhibitions

Faces of Antiquity: Portraiture of the Roman Empire



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