Portrait of an old man


The cheeks are completely sunken in the wrinkle-ridden face of an old man. One perceives the skull beneath the thinning skin, senses the fatigue of the deep-set eyes and believes to recognise a past sensuality behind the tightly closed lips. The short but still full hair is structured by crescent and wavy indentations and lies cap-like over the head. The haggard impression of the bony face is reinforced by the prominent collarbones and the deeply sunken choke pit. Nevertheless, we are not dealing with a depiction of loss of strength, weakness or infirmity in this portrait. Rather, the portrait radiates resilience and ascetic hardness. These virtues were characteristic of members of the Roman middle class in the early imperial period and an expression of their social advancement and social participation. Self-discipline, constancy and old age were positive values for this man and his relatives, which contributed to the success of the family and were immortalised in the portrait. The placement of the sculpture at the grave was a visible reminder of this for everyone. The semi-circular neckline shows that the portrait was originally made to be inserted, presumably into a toga statue.

Material & Technique
End of 1st century BC - beginning of 1st century CE
Inventory number
Hm 329