This life-size portrait bust of a young boy, originally affixed to a herm of wood or stone, was made by a gifted sculptor who endowed it with great presence. His large soulful eyes are inlaid with silver, and his hair is arranged in thick layers of curls that even cover the backs of his ears. The boy's identity is unknown since no inscription is preserved, but the high quality of the sculpture has often led to the suggestion that he represents the emperor Nero as a child. Since Nero was already 13 years old in A.D. 50, when he was adopted by his great uncle and stepfather, the emperor Claudius, it seems unlikely that he is in fact the person portrayed here. Nevertheless, the style of the bust is very much in keeping with late Julio-Claudian portraiture.
By 1876, collection of Sir Francis Cook, Doughty House, Richmond, UK; 1901-1905, collection of Wyndham F. Cook, Richmond, UK; 1905-1925, collection of Hymphrey W. Cook, Richmond, UK; July 14, 1925, purchased by Davidge through Christie’s, London (lot 118); [until 1945, with H. Blairman & Sons, Ltd., London]; [1945, purchased by Joseph Brummer from H. Blairman & Sons, Ltd.]; [1945 (arrived to New York City on February 4, 1946) – 1947, with Joseph Brummer, New York]; October 20, 1947, purchased from the Brummer estate by Albert E. Gallatin; 1947-1966, collection of Albert E. Gallatin, New York; acquired in 1966, purchased through Sotheby’s, London (lot 58).
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Metropolitan Museum of Art. 1966. "Ninety-Sixth Annual Report of the Trustees for the Fiscal Year 1965-1966." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, 25(2): p. 82.
Oliver, Andrew Jr. 1967. "Portrait of a Young Boy." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, 25(7): pp. 264–72, figs. 1, 4–6, 12.
von Bothmer, Dietrich. 1975. "Notable Acquisitions, 1965-1975." The Metropolitan Museum of Art, : p. 117.
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Coonin, Arnold Victor. 1995. "Portrait Busts of Children in Quattrocento Florence." Metropolitan Museum Journal, 30: pp. 61–62, fig. 4.
Mattusch, Carol. 1996. The Fire of Hephaistos: Large Classical Bronzes from North American Collections no. 46, pp. 318–21, Cambridge, Mass: Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Harvard Art Museums.
Pollini, John. 2002. Gallo-Roman Bronzes and the Process of Romanization: The Cobanus Hoard. p. 2 n 8; 17 n15, Leiden: Brill.
Picón, Carlos A. 2007. Art of the Classical World in the Metropolitan Museum of Art: Greece, Cyprus, Etruria, Rome no. 414, pp. 359, 486–87, New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Daehner, Jens M. and Dr. Kenneth Lapatin. 2015. Potere e Pathos: Bronzi del Mondo Ellenistico p. 169, fig. 11.2, Firenze: Giunti.
Daehner, Jens M. and Dr. Kenneth Lapatin. 2015. Power and Pathos: Bronze Sculpture of the Hellenistic World p. 169, fig. 11.2, Los Angeles, CA: J. Paul Getty Museum.
Zanker, Paul. 2016. Roman Portraits: Sculptures in Stone and Bronze in the Collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. no. 45, pp. 112–13, 138–40, New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art.