Bust Of A Man – Roman, First Century B.c. To First Century A.d.

Such artistic genius as the Romans possessed found its expression in realistic portraiture rather than in more imaginative works; for the Roman mind could grasp the practical facts of an existence, the poetical and fanciful aspects of which it could only partly apprehend. Much of Roman art is an echo and repetition of the more vital Greek expression, save in those instances where the Roman sculptor worked directly from the living model and concerned himself only with making an exact replica in bronze or marble of the subject set before his eyes. Further than that he could rarely go; but the extent to which he excelled in the art of portraiture is illustrated by the impressive Bust of a Man in the Altman Collection. It represents the transition period in Roman art between the first century B.C. and the first century A.D. when traces might be discerned of an idealizing tendency borrowed from Greece, a tendency which had not yet, however, perverted the native Roman realism that gives the portrait its splendidly lifelike character. The ivory with which the eyeballs are inlaid contributes greatly to this effect, especially when one imagines the bronze of the flesh in its original golden color; and with the iris and pupil, which have disappeared, inlaid in lapis or other material, the lifelike quality must have been still further accentuated. The loss of these details and the removal of a portion of the ancient patina are the only injuries which the portrait has undergone. Miss G. M. A. Richter was the first to publish this bust; in her account in Art in America, Vol. I, No. 2, April, 1913, she discusses at length its subject and ascription, and also the general characteristics of this interesting class of portrait-sculpture.