Head, 323-30 BCE
Hellenistic Period
Possibly Egypt
Copper alloy
1 3/8 × 1 × 1 1/8 in. (3.5 × 2.5 × 2.9 cm)
3-D Object/Sculpture
X 591

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This small bronze head may have once functioned as a stopper, or have set into a separately made body, as its neck ends in a smooth finish. The object depicts a young Black African man with a rectangular face, plump lips, and a wide nose. His hair is in short rows of braids, and his cheekbones are well-defined. While the rest of his features are rendered accurately on his face, the ears are placed at the same height as his eyes, too high on each side of the head. 

On the basis of its style, the head is dated to the Ptolemaic period of Egypt (323–30 BCE). After the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BCE, Egypt became a Hellenistic kingdom ruled by Ptolemy, one of his former generals, and later by his descendants. 

Prior to its acquisition by the de Menils in 1965, this piece was mistakenly conflated with a similar looking head made of faience in another collection. Both pieces are said to be from Egypt, have similar dimensions, and a comparable appearance in old photography. The head in the Menil Collection is made from a copper alloy, however, which allows us to distinguish the two. The origins of this head prior to entering the Menil Collection are now lost because of the confusion with the other piece, but continued research may uncover more about it and its function.