Marble Portrait Bust of a Woman with a Scroll

Date: late 4th–early 5th century

Geography: Made in Constantinople

Culture: Byzantine

Medium: Pentelic Marble

Dimensions: Overall: 20 7/8 x 10 13/16 x 8 3/4 in. (53 x 27.5 x 22.2 cm)
Base: 1 7/8 x 12 1/2 x 6 3/4in. (4.8 x 31.8 x 17.1cm)

Classification: Sculpture-Stone

Credit Line: The Cloisters Collection, 1966

Accession Number: 66.25


This sensitively carved portrait bust presents a mature woman with a thoughtful expression and piercing gaze; the scroll held in her right hand signals an appreciation for classical learning and marks her as a member of the elite. She wears a mantle, tunic, and head covering, typical dress for an aristocratic woman. Such head coverings did not come into fashion until the fourth century. The bust likely formed part of a commemorative display, perhaps documenting a public donation, or was used in a domestic setting.