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Head of a Man

This portrait head, broken from a life-sized statue, depicts a man, possibly a priest. The modeling of the face, with its high cheekbones, sunken eyes, and furrowed brow demonstrates a concern with realism that is characteristic of the late Roman Republic and continued into the early imperial period. The material used, however, is distinctly Egyptian. Basalt, a hard black stone associated with the dark silt of the Nile River, was symbolic of the renewal of life and connected with the gods Osiris and Horus. Together, the portrait style of the head and the basalt material reflect the interactions between artistic traditions of both cultures. The statue was designed to stand against a back pillar (a remnant is preserved at the back of the neck); such pillars are typical in Egypt during this period and would probably have been inscribed with hieroglyphs.

Romano-Egyptian
Head of a Man
Imperial period, 1st century BC–1st century AD
Basalt
H. 8 1/4 in. (21.0 cm) x W. 6 1/4 in. (15.9 cm) x D. 8 in. (20.3 cm)
Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art, 63.45