Head of a Priest or Saint
Asia Minor, 5th century
Marble, Height 28.3 cm
With his piercing gaze, the man represented in this Late Antique sculpture may have been a priest or a saint. The man's forehead creases in soft furrows, his hair and beard fall in uniform waves, and his thin lips are pressed tightly shut. The unknown sculptor has rendered the ears in a simple fashion without any inner elements. And the pupils of the eyes are drilled out in deep, rough circles. These stylistic features link the sculpture with works produced in Constantinople in the early 400s. The sculpture represents the transition from Late Antique to Byzantine art.
In the 400s, sculpture was not a popular art form. This head was carved as an independent element for insertion into a separately carved body. The unfinished back of the head and the highly visible, deeply drilled eyes suggest that this piece was probably part of an architectural sculptural group designed to be viewed from a distance.