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Home > Auctions > 25th May 2021 > Roman Marble Head of Harpocrates

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LOT 0097

GBP (£) 20,000 - 30,000
EUR (€) 23,250 - 34,880
USD ($) 28,050 - 42,080

Opening Bid
£18,000 (EUR 20,925; USD 25,246) (+bp*)

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Roman Marble Head of Harpocrates

1st-2nd century AD

A life-size head of the divine child Harpocrates, his youthful face with rounded chin and chubby features, a coy smile on the parted lips, the deep-set almond-shaped eyes with heavy lids, the hair cascading in soft curly waves on either side of the head with a central top-knot; mounted on a custom-made display stand. 15 kg, 36.5 cm including stand (14 1/4"). Very fine condition.

Ex North London gallery; previously in a London, UK, family collection since before 1960; accompanied by an archaeological expertise by Dr Raffaele D’Amato and a geological scholarly report no.TL5204 by Dr Ronald Bonewitz; this lot has been checked against the Interpol Database of stolen works of art and is accompanied by AIAD certificate number no.10682-175204.

See Daremberg & Saglio, Dictionnaire des Antiquités Grecques et Romaines, Paris, 1873-1917; the portrait has a good parallel with the image of Harpocrates represented with Isis and Osiris on a marble relief found at Henchir el-Attermine, Tunisia, dated to the last quarter of 2nd century AD, today at the Louvre (MA3128); see also the Vatican Portrait in Bennorf, O., Schoene, R., Die Antike Bildwerke des Lateranischen Museum, Leipzig, 1867, no.133.

Harpocrates was the Greek interpretation of the Egyptian god Harpa-Khruti (Horus the child), usually depicted as a small boy. Statues of Harpocrates are preserved in the Greco-Roman Museum of Alexandria (inv.25785), and at the Musei Capitolini, Rome (inv. Scu 646). As in the Capitoline sculpture, the face here is dominated by wide eyes and softly modelled features proper to the young god, like the abundant hair falling down upon the neck. A facial portrait from another statue of the young god, in the Vatican Museum (Sala Corazze, inv. no.10270), shows the same hair without the headgear, and also here it is missing any indication of the typical finger gesture. Another head of the god is the one made in basalt at the Archaeological National Museum of Naples (inv.896) from the Borgia Collection, where the stylistic traits are decidedly Hellenistic. His statue was at the entrance of almost all temples, to indicate that those places of the gods should be honoured with silence, or, according to Plutarch, men who had an imperfect knowledge of the divinity should only speak of it with respect.