Art/ Collection/ Collection/ Art Object

Marble head of Demosthenes

2nd century A.D.
Overall: 11 x 8 5/8 x 9 in. (27.9 x 21.9 x 22.9 cm)
Stone Sculpture
Credit Line:
Gift of Renée E. and Robert A. Belfer, 2012
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 162
Copy of a Greek bronze statue by Polyeuktos of ca. 280 B.C.

Demosthenes (ca. 384–322 b.c.) of Athens is widely considered the greatest orator of ancient Greece. Early on in his career, he recognized that the rise in power of Philip II of Macedonia was a threat to Greek independence, and he initiated a lifelong aggressive anti-Macedonian policy, which he pleaded publicly to the Athenians and the citizens of other Greek city-states. More than fifty Roman portraits of Demosthenes are known, an eloquent testimony to his continued popularity in Roman times. All the existing portraits appear to reflect a single Greek original, most likely the posthumous portrait statue by the sculptor Polyeuktos erected in the agora (marketplace) of Athens in 280 B.C. The fine head captures the orator in a characteristically harsh, unhappy yet determined expression—the countenance of a noble fanatic, great mind, and passionate patriot.
Mussienko Family Collection, Maryland, 1973. Sold by Fortuna Fine Arts, New York, to Ariadne Gallery, New York, in 1987. Sold by the Ariadne Gallery to Morris Pinto, New York, before December, 1992. Consigned by Morris Pinto to Christie’s New York, December 15, 1992, lot 14, passed in. Consigned by Morris Pinto to the Acanthus Gallery, New York. Acquired by Renée E. and Robert A. Belfer from the Acanthus Gallery, New York, before 1998. Given by Renée E. and Robert A. Belfer to The Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2012. The work has been on loan to, and on display at, The Metropolitan Museum of Art since 2007.
1992. Christie's. Antiquities. December 15, 1992. lot 14, New York.

Karoglou, Kyriaki. 2014. "Recent Acquisitions, A Selection: 2012-2014." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, 72(2): p. 12.

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