Head of Athena, Hellenistic, late 3rd–early 2nd century b.c.
Marble; H. 19 in. (48.3 cm)
Purchase, Lila Acheson Wallace Gift, 1996 (1996.178)
This colossal female head, well over twice lifesize, is known to represent Athena by the fact that it originally wore the goddess' characteristic Corinthian-shaped helmet, which was added separately and perhaps made of bronze rather than of marble. Two small holes at the top and back of the head presumably served to secure the piece of armor with metal pins. The hair is pulled back from either side of the face and rolled into a low chignon behind. The ears are pierced to receive metal earrings. The lower edge of the neck is not broken, and it preserves a smooth surface where it would have been joined to the body.
The goddess, depicted with parted lips and wide-open eyes, turns her head sharply to the right. This indication of abrupt movement in such a monumental statue suggests that the figure was represented striding forward, probably as a votive image of the warrior goddess in her role as protector of a city, rather than as a cult statue within a temple. In terms of chronology, both the dynamic action and the passionate expression of the figure point to the time of the so-called High Hellenistic baroque.