Presumed bust of Demosthenes,
ancient head from the 2nd-3rd century AD
Marble bust probably representing Demosthenes, great Orator of the 3rd century BC.
The head is a work from the 2nd-3rd century AD, probably a representation of Demosthenes taken from a sculpture of Polyeuctos from the 3rd century BC and erected in the agora of Athens around 280 BC.
It is sculpted in white marble, probably from Paros, coming from the Marathi quarry. The marble has large crystals with a very weak and slightly bluish schistosity.
The bust, representing the toga of the Roman emperors, dates from the 17th century. It is made of polychrome marble, probably from Sarrancolin, whose quarries were exploited from Roman times until the 19th century. Under Louis XIV, the career became royal. Here the predominantly gray-brown color can imply a variety of Ilhet sarrancolin. It was not uncommon for a sculpture in the 17th century to be misinterpreted and reassembled with a more recent body. Thus, this ancient representation, with the beard and the marked features of an elderly and concentrated man (which was very rarely done in antiquity and for which the work of Polyeuctos marked a turning point) was considered as the representation of a Roman emperor. from the 2nd century who, from this time onwards, also wore beards.
Restoration of the nose, an attached ear (old)
Demosthenes was depicted many times during the Roman era. Considered one of the greatest ancient orators, decreed by Homer as “the Poet” and for the Greeks “the Orator”, he was the subject of several representations. His first sculpture was executed by Polyeuctos, 42 years after the death of Demosthenes. This tribute, in bronze, made at the request of his nephew and the Athenian people, was erected near the altar of the Twelve Gods and the monument of the eponymous heroes, in the agora of Athens.
An annotation under the sculpture stipulated: “if you had had as much strength as your thought, Demosthenes, the Macedonian Ares would never have governed the Greeks” (extract from the translation by Muller-Dufeu, ed 2002)
Demosthenes was particularly recognized for his fight against Philip II of Macedon. He recognized that Greek independence was threatened by the latter and launched into an aggressive anti-Macedonian policy which he defended all his life, publicly, to the Athenians and other Greek cities.
His speeches spanning time, his praise did not stop at this single sculpture. Several artists painted his portrait, taking inspiration from the sculpture of Polyeuctos. This is how the representation of this great Speaker is today presented in several museums.
An example similar to ours demonstrates these errors of interpretation.
The sculpture of Demosthenes, exhibited at the Museum of Fine Arts in Tours and formerly in the collection of Cardinal Richelieu, also presents a restored head from the 2nd century AD but a bust from the 17th century.
One of the copies of the sculpture is presented at the Louvre Museum.
Another at the British Museum
One at the Met Museum
Or at the glyptotek in Munich
And in many other museums.
Dimensions: H 73 cm x W 48 cm x D 23 cm