Marble head of an elderly woman


On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 166

On this Roman portrait of a mature woman, red pigment indicates the pupil, iris, and eyelashes of the right eye and both eyebrows. Scientific analyses identified the pigment as a mixture of ocher and carbon black, which was likely applied as an underpainting. The artist also used a different red pigment derived from lead in the eyes and for the lips. Color emphasizes features that mark prestige, such as the hair, which is highlighted brown. The hairstyle combines a braided bun worn high on the head and the so-called nodus, a flat braid pulled back over the top of the head. The nodus was popular during this period and a favored hairstyle of the wife of the emperor Augustus.

Marble head of an elderly woman, Marble, Roman

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