Portrait of a Roman Youth

Ancient Rome, 190-200

This head of a youth, a fragment of a portrait statue, depicts a private individual, something indicated by the absence of numerous copies of the sculpture. The adolescent has an attractive, refined face: childishly plump cheeks, sensual lips and very large eyes. Striking long hair frames the face with a sumptuous fringe hanging low over the forehead. The eyebrows are raised high, opening the eyes. The irises are marked by deeply carved lines and the youngster’s gaze seems radiant, while the heavy eyelids produce an impression of self-absorption and a slight melancholy. The carelessly ruffled locks of hair produce a picturesque play of light and shade. The archetype for this portrait of a youth was provided by the sculptures of Antinous that were produced in large numbers during Hadrian’s reign (AD 117–138). The image of the effete, sad youth became popular in Roman art after Hadrian, in the second half of the 2nd century under the Antonine Emperors as well. The Hermitage portrait derives from a portrait of that kind but differs in iconography and style. The facial features are highly individual and exalted, devoid of the mannered sensuousness seen in depictions of Antinous. In his looks, it is also close to portraits of the princes of the Severan dynasty, Caracalla and Geta, although in contrast to those despotic and sullen heirs to the throne it represents a different psychological type – refined and open-hearted.


Portrait of a Roman Youth





height:28,5 cm

Acquisition date:

Entered the Hermitage in 1851; purchased from Riketti and Rotta in Venice

Inventory Number:





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