Pair of eyes

Period: Classical

Date: 5th century B.C. or later

Culture: Greek

Medium: Bronze, marble, frit, quartz, obsidian

Dimensions: maximum H. 1 1/2 in. (3.8 cm)
maximum length 2in. (5.1cm)

Classification: Bronzes

Credit Line: Purchase, Mr. and Mrs. Lewis B. Cullman Gift and Norbert Schimmel Bequest, 1991

Accession Number: 1991.11.3a, b


Greek and Roman sculptors designed their statues to give a colorful lifelike impression. Marble and wood sculptures were brightly painted and bronze statues, originally the color of suntanned skin, were often inlaid with other materials that simulated natural features. Lips and nipples were frequently inlaid with copper, and teeth with silver. The eyes were usually made separately and set into prepared sockets. This pair, designed for an over-lifesize bronze statue, gives a sense of the potent immediacy that ancient sculpture could convey.
The variety of materials here reflects the complex anatomy of the human eye. The whites of the eyes are made of frit (glass paste), the irises are inlays of colored quartz, and the bronze eyelashes were formed separately. In the center of each eye, a piece of obsidian, a black volcanic glass, approximates the sparkle of the pupil.