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Museum of Classical Archaeology Databases

Seneca (so-called)

Portraits of ancient worthies like this were once valued more because of who they represented than their artistic merit. This head was identified as Seneca from 1598 until 1813, when another portrait now in Berlin was found, inscribed with Seneca’s name but looking quite different.

Once it was established that this was not the Roman orator, poet and dramatist Seneca, art historians paid more attention to the portrait’s intrinsic qualities. That probably explains why this particular “pseudo-Seneca”, one of about forty similar copies, was largely unknown for nearly a century after its discovery.

Whoever this man was he was clearly popular in the Bay of Naples area, as most of the similar sculptures, bronze and marble, have been found there. On the original the whites of the eyes, made of bone, are still in place

Location of Original: 

Naples, National Museum 879


Purchased in 1884 from Naples


Lippold: Griechische Plastik, 387 (n.1), pl. 133.4
DellaValle: Il Ritratto di Lucrezio, Rendiconti Accademia Lincei (1936-7), 571-
Ruesch: Guide to the National Museum, Naples, 217
Walston: Catalogue of Casts in the Museum of Classical Archaeology (1889), 115, no.607
Reporter: 19 June 1885, 895, no.533
Richter: The Portraits of the Greeks, 191, & pl.152
Mattusch: The Villa dei Papiri at Herculaneum, 249

Roman. Original: early C2 BCE (?)

Found in Herculaneum in the Villa of Epicurean Papyri in 1754

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