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A head, a fragment of a classicizing relief

98-117 AD

Pentelic marble

Height: 16cm
Width: 14.5cm
Length (face): 6cm

Museum number: M1175

Vermeule catalogue number: Vermeule 289help-vermeule-catalogue-number

Curatorial note

A female head in the Greek fifth century style with hair bound three times by a looped fillet secured with a knot over the forehead and showing traces of curls beneath and falling down beside the ear. It is nearly impossible from the break to say whether this head comes from a freestanding statue or from a high relief, although the latter seems more likely.

The problem presented by this head is that it is of identical size and workmanship in detail with the lower relief head from the frieze enrichment of the Forum of Trajan Soane M1175 (Vermeule 288). Furthermore, this second fragment has always belonged with the Trajanic example and both came from the Flaxman collection, rather than from C.H. Tatham's purchases or an unknown source. The two heads can only be reconciled to the same frieze with difficulty, for they are of different eclectic styles and there is the problem of relief depth to be considered. Until the sculptural fragments from the pre-second War excavations and systematizations in the Forum of Trajan are thoroughly re-examined, we can only speculate that the two heads formed parts of two separate but related series of reliefs. If the first group of three heads seems derived from a processional frieze or a series of "Campana-relief" type terracotta plaques reinterpreted/presented as marble panelling on a much larger scale then perhaps this head belongs to the deeper-set central or focal relief panel of the series, perhaps even to one of the attendant or divine figures if we imagine the centre or the culmination of the procession as having comprised a dodekatheon. The pseudo-classic style and setting of a head such as this example can be faintly judged from the Hellenistic-type Roman relief 'Hercules and the Hesperides' in the Villa Albani.1

1 Phot. Anderson no. 1890; S. Reinach, Répertoire de Reliefs Grecs et Romains, Vol III, Paris, 1909-12, p. 138, no. 3.

Provenance help-art-provenance

Rome (?); acquired by Soane from the collection of the neoclassical sculptor John Flaxman.


A. Michaelis, Ancient Marbles in Great Britain, trans. C.A.M. Fennell, Cambridge, 1882, p. 475, no. 12.

If you have any further information about this object, please contact us: worksofart@soane.org.uk