Portrait sculpture from Cyprus

Portrait sculpture from Cyprus, fifth century BCPortrait sculpture from Cyprus, fifth century BC

The National Museum of Antiquities has purchased in 2013 a major addition to its collection of Greek antiquities: a limestone portrait sculpture from Cyprus.  The sculpture dates from the fifth century BC and is of exceptionally high quality. The only other places in Europe where you can find Archaic Greek sculptures of such quality are the British Museum and the Louvre.

On show in 2015
From late 2015 onward, it will be prominently displayed as part of the renovated permanent exhibition of the Greek collection.

Greek smile and Persian beard

Many visitors will immediately recognize the 34-centimetre-high portrait head as a Greek sculpture, because of its almond-shaped eyes and charming ‘Archaic smile’. In the fifth century BC, Cyprus was under Persian rule, and this influence is also visible. The man’s full beard, twisted into countless curls, is entirely in the Persian court fashion of the period.

Gift from a distinguished family

This head was once part of a life-size statue in a standing pose. It was probably placed next to a temple or shrine as an offering to the deity worshipped there. Given its large dimensions, which made it a valuable sculpture, the donor must have belonged to a family of wealth and distinction.

Provenance of the sculpture

Unearthed in Cyprus by a French archaeological expedition, the portrait head found its way to the Louvre in the 1860s. In 1870, it was given to the French architect Hector-Martin Lefüel (1810–1880) in recognition of his role in the restoration of the Louvre. In 2003, the sculpture was put up for auction by Lefüel’s heirs.

Support from the Rembrandt Association and the BankGiro Lottery

The sculpture was purchased at the TEFAF antique fair with financial support from the Rembrandt Association (partly thanks to its Utrecht Rembrandt Circle) and the BankGiro Lottery.