Head of a Black African Man, 300 BCE-300 CE
Hellenistic or Roman
Egypt, possibly Alexandria
1 5/8 × 1 5/8 × 2 in. (4.1 × 4.1 × 5.1 cm)
3-D Object/Sculpture
1980-18.03 DJ

1980 18 03 dj 20190523 005c v01 m
1980 18 03 dj 20190523 002c v01 m
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The fleshy, exaggerated lips of the mouth for this figure are open, revealing a protruding tongue and what appears to be toothless gums. The figure appears to be bald or have a shaved head, which is consistent with the representation of an elderly man. Although the head has large, oversized ears, the nose, eyes, and eyebrows are represented more naturalistically. The figure is broken at the neck and has some evidence of cracks and pitting along the surface.  

In the past, figures with exaggerated features were called “grotesques.” That term refers to a highly varied group of figures and is no longer a useful classification. This particular older individual may represent an actor or a stock character from comedic plays. Typically, these characters are identified by exaggerated, mask-like features, such as the face in this example, and a padded belly. Alternatively, the figure could represent an older cult official, who also would have a shaved head.