Portrait Busts of Two Youths

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Portrait Busts of Two Youths, Unknown, Gallo-Roman, A.D. 60 – 70, Bronze

Who do these two bronze portrait busts represent? They are very similar in appearance, although one appears slightly older than the other. Both boys have a hairstyle with a distinctive wave across the forehead, which was popular during the reign of the Roman emperor Nero. The busts originally had long, separately made locks of hair, which were attached to the back of the heads. Their long locks may indicate that they represent a pair of attendants in a youth organization called the Iuventus, which held special favor under Nero. If so, these busts are the only known portraits of such attendants in the Iuventus and were probably created to be displayed in one of the organization’s shrines.

One bust has an acanthus band at the bottom; while this feature is missing on the other bust, traces of solder may indicate its original presence. Also missing from both heads are the original inlaid eyes made of colored stone or glass paste. The emphasis on the front view, the simplistic treatment of the back of the head, and the overall style indicate that this pair of busts was made in the Roman province of Gaul.

These busts are said to have been found in France along with the Offering Box and the Statuette of Mars/Cobannus. The pieces were probably all displayed together in a local shrine of the Iuventus.

Source : The Getty Museum

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