Kallos Gallery

A GREEK MARBLE HEAD OF A GODDESS

A GREEK MARBLE HEAD OF A GODDESS

HELLENISTIC PERIOD, CIRCA 4TH – 2ND CENTURY BC

Height: 34 cm 

Probably depicting Demeter, turned slightly to her right, her oval face with serene features, with peaked forehead, gently arched brows, almond shaped eyes, with defined lids, with slender bowed lips, with rounded chin, her ears pierced, her wavy hair centre-parted, bound by a thin band across her ears, wearing a veil pulled up over the back of her head and falling down on either side of her long neck, the back of the head roughly hewn, probably for completion in a secondary material or for placement in a niche.

The style of this head recalls the Demeter of Knidos, now in the British Museum. Demeter was the Greek goddess of fertility and the seasons. The sanctuary of Demeter at Knidos, in modern day south western Turkey, was laid out in around 350 B.C., at the same time as the city. It consisted of a long terrace with spectacular views, on which were displayed many votive sculptures, including this one of Demeter herself on her throne. Her throne would have had elaborate arms, and her hands would have held a libation bowl or a torch, two common attributes of Demeter.

The Annenberg Hall head differs from the Demeter of Knidos in that her hair is bound in a fillet and the back of her head has been left unfinished, possibly for completion in a separate piece of marble or possibly because she was never designed to be seen in the round. Our head bears all the hallmarks of sculpture from this period, the characteristic broad, peaked forehead, long straight profile and delicate bow-shaped lips. The head exudes serenity, embodied by the goddess’s composed expression and restrained beauty. Greek sculpture from this period is rare and it is unusual to find marble heads of quality of this scale and in such good condition.

The Annenberg Hall head also bears a striking resemblance to a head of a Ptolemaic Queen in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Like our head, this example is similar in scale, measuring 38.1 cm. with more of the lower part of the neck surviving, and it is roughly hewn at the back where a veil, now missing, would have been. Recent scholarship identifies her as Arsinoe II, although her features are strongly idealised and hark back to the classical 4th Century B.C. representations of the goddesses Hera and Demeter. It is probable that this head was associated with the latter’s cult.

With Charles Dikran Kelekian (1900-1982) Ancient Arts, New York, before 1965

Evelyn Annenberg Hall (1912-2005) collection, acquired from the above on 26 October 1965

Antiquities, Christie’s, New York, 9 December 2005, lot 189

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