The Temporary Exhibition of the Mechanism and the Antikythera shipwreck...>>

Head of a bearded man

Material: Bronze
Provenance: Antikythera shipwreck. From the material retrieved in 1900-1901 (24.11.1900)
Date: Ca 230 BC or shortly thereafter
Dimensions: H. 0.35 m.
Inv. no: Athens, National Archaeological Museum, Χ 13400
Exhibition Place:Temporary Exhibitions Wing, Room I

Despite surface corrosion, the head is in relatively good condition. Traces of "seams" at the base of the neck on both the front and at the left side confirm that it was cast separately from the body. The eyes were inlaid. Surrounded by a thin metal band, the eyeballs were originally of a white (now yellowish) material, perhaps alabaster. The irises were fashioned in the same way, i.e. with alabaster and another metal framing. In contrast, the lips, of a red alloy with a higher copper content, appear to have been cast with the face. The heavy mustache and delicate incisions on the beard were done with a very fine chisel. Three rectangular "patches" in the hair and on the neck are due to post-casting repairs.

The statue is a portrait of an elderly, bearded man, whose individual features are realistically depicted. The relatively large head is turned slightly to the left. The skull is nearly square; the neck is short and stocky. The hair is formed in disordered curls, in contrast with the beard, which is more regular and well-combed. The nose is long, with broad wings, and the lips are thin and hidden beneath the thick mustache. The eyes are small and round, and the eyelids unusually wide. The raised bushy eyebrows and deep forehead wrinkles lend the face expressiveness and liveliness. The unkempt appearance recalls that of a Cynic philosopher. For this reason, it has been proposed that the head depicted the Athenian Cynic Antisthenes (450/445-365 BC), Diogenes' teacher. S. Karouzou was the first to assume, in 1985, that the portrait perhaps depicted the famous 3rd c. BC philosopher Bion the Borysthenite (from the Borysthenes River in Olbia, modern-day Ukraine). Bion, who began his career as a student of the Peripatetic Theophrastus, later became famous for his hedonistic cynicism and irony, which perhaps had its source in his disdain for his humble origins (it was said that he was the son of a fisherman and a courtesan). He taught detachment from material things in order to achieve spiritual peace. At the end of his life he became involved with magic to overcome his fear of death. He left his mark on literature with his satirical works (διατριβαί). However, it is impossible to interpret the figure depicted with certainty, given that the place where the statue was originally set up is unknown. In this work, which is one of the most significant exemplars of psychological depth in portraiture, recognizable elements of the early baroque are detectable. For this reason a date of around 230 or more probably ca 220-210 BC is preferred. However, one in the first half of the 2nd c. BC, has also been proposed because of the statue's realism, bringing it close to creations of the Middle Hellenistic period. Proposals for an earlier dating, namely to ca 340 BC, are based on the sandal-type depicted (τροχάδες). However, this does not seem acceptable, since the type of footwear is found in art from the 5th c. BC to the Roman period. S. Karouzou believed the head to be a work of the Rhodian school of bronze sculpture.

Bibliogrphy(especially for the head): Ι. N. Svoronos, Το εν Αθήναις Εθνικόν Μουσείον. Ο θησαυρός του ναυαγίου των Αντικυθήρων, Athens 1903, Vol. Α΄, 29-35, no. 2, pls. III-IV. K. T. Frost, The Statues from Cerigotto, JHS 23 (1903) 233-235, no. V, pl. 4. L. Alscher, Griechische Plastik ΙV: Hellenismus, Berlin 1957, 146, 148, 151, 174, fig. 70. E. Buschor, Das hellenistische Bildnis2, Munchen 1971, 25, 27, 28, 76, αρ. 94, fig. 20. P. C. Bol, Die Skulpturen des Schiffsfundes von Antikythera, Berlin 1972, 24-31, pls. 10-13,3-4. S. Karusu, Der Bronzekopf aus Antikythera - ein kynischer Philosoph, στον τόμο: Pro arte antiqua. Festschrift fur Hedwig Kenner II, Wien 1985, 207-213, pls. 8,1-2. Ο. Tzachou-Alexandri (ed.), To Πνεύμα και το Σώμα. Οι αθλητικοί αγώνες στην αρχαία Ελλάδα, Exhibition Catalogue, National Archaeological Museum, 15.5.1989 - 15.1.1990, Athens 1989, 190-192, no. 83 (P. Kalligas). Ν. Himmelmann, Antisthenes, στον τόμο: Β. Andreae (ed.), Phyromachos-Probleme: mit einem Anhang zur Datierung des grossen Altares von Pergamon, Mainz am Rhein 1990, 15-16. R. von den Hoff, Philosophenportrats des Fruh- und Hochhellenismus, Munchen 1994, 151-154, pl. 41 figs. 162-163 και pl. 42 figs. 164-165. P. Moreno, Scultura ellenistica I, Roma 1994, 271-274, figs. 336-337, 340. C. C. Mattusch, Classical Bronzes. The Art and Craft of Greek and Roman Statuary, Ithaca 1996, 91, fig. 3.7, 92-94. K. Schefold, Die Bildnisse der antiken Dichter, Redner und Denker, Basel 1997, 258-259, fig. 142, 519. El. Schraudolph, Beispiele hellenistischer Plastik der Zeit zwischen 190 und 160 v. Chr., in: P. C. Bol (ed.), Die Geschichte der antiken Bildhauerkunst IIΙ: Hellenistische Plastik, Mainz am Rhein 2007, 226-227, fig. 86a-c. N. Kaltsas - E. Vlachogianni - P. Bouyia (eds),The Antikythera Shipwreck: The Ship, The Treasures, The Mechanism, Exhibition Catalogue, National Archaeological Museum, April 2012 - April 2013, Athens 2012, 82-84 cat. no. 24a and 84-86 cat. nos. 24b-g [for all the fragments] (E. Vlachogianni).
For the sandals (τροχάδες): K. Dohan Morrow, Greek Footwear and the Dating of Sculpture, Madison, Wisconsin 1985, 63-64, 84-86, 114-117. G. Calcani, Cavalieri di Bronzo. La torma di Alessandro opera di Lisippo, Roma 1989, 54-55.

Position in the museum