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Portrait of a Matron

Photo by Peter Paul Geoffrion

Portrait of a Matron

Culture Group: Roman
Culture: Roman
Date: 40–30 BCE
Medium: Marble
11 1/2 x 6 x 8 inches (29.2 x 15.2 x 20.3 cm)
Classification: Sculpture
Credit Line: Gift of Mrs. Ella Brummer
Label Text:This portrait can be dated to the end of the first century BCE due to the woman’s distinctive hairstyle that shows a roll of hair in the middle of the forehead. The style was popularized throughout the Roman empire by the distribution of portraits of Livia and Octavia, the wife and sister, respectively, of the emperor Augustus (r. 27 BCE – 14 CE). Over the next three centuries, images of imperial women circulated widely as sculpture and coinage, and their styles were emulated by women in all parts of the empire.

In this period, portraits tended toward a realism that valued maturity and experience over idealized youthfulness. This can be seen here in the lines on the woman’s face and neck and the heaviness of her jaw and full chin.

The roughly finished conical neck of this sculpture indicates that it was likely made to be slotted into a prefabricated body.

Provenance: Ernest [1890-1964] or Joseph [1883-1947] Brummer; by inheritance to Ernest Brummer's wife, Ella Brummer; gift 1984 to Duke University Museum of Art, now Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University.
Object number: 1984.2.2