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: Head of a Male

Head of a Male

Historical period(s)
300 BCE-100 CE
Calcite travertine
H x W x D: 21.4 x 15 x 8.8 cm (8 7/16 x 5 7/8 x 3 7/16 in)
Credit Line
Gift of Joseph H. Hirshhorn to the Smithsonian Institution
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
Accession Number
Head of a bearded male, carved from transluscent alabaster. highly modelled, probably meant to be viewed only from the front. The facial features are rendered in detail. The eyes are recessed, and once held shell or stone inlays. The ears protrude perpendicular to the beard with interior detail incised for a schematic rendering. The nose is straight with indication of nostrils, and the lips are modelled. The beard, which extends from ear to ear, is smoothed on the front edge, but not on the bottom. The entire face rests in a smooth background field of the same stone.

The sculpture is in good condition, with very few scratches on the smooth and polished surface. There are several black flecks in the recessed eyes, where the inlays would have been placed, and on the nose. It is not clear whether these imperfections are remains of adhesive substances or soil.
Numerous often stylized memorial portraits and "face plaques" have been excavated in the cemeteries of Southern Arabia, mainly in the Wadi Beihan and the area of the ancient Qataban Empire (modern Yemen) that flourished between the 5th century BCE and the 1st century CE. in the 19th and 20th centuries. Close parallels to this head are in the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History where the remainder of the Hirshhorn collection is today. An updated bibliography on alabaster statues and fragments found throughout modern Yemen can be found in Sabina Antonini, and Mounir Arbach, La statuaria sudarabica in pietra. Rome and Paris (2001). This head stems most likely from the vast cemeteries of ancient Tamna.

To 1965
André Emmerich Gallery, New York. [1]

From 1965 to 1966
Joseph H. Hirshhorn (1899-1981), purchased from André Emmerich Gallery, New York. [2]

From 1966 to 1986
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., gift of Joseph H. Hirshhorn. [3]

From 1986
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, transferred from Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. [4]


[1] See document from the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, object file, Collections Management Office.

[2] See note 1.

[3] See note 1.

[4] See note 1. See also object file, Collections Management Office.

Former owner
Joseph H. Hirshhorn
André Emmerich Gallery
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden
On View Location
Currently not on view
Sculpture, Stone
man, WWII-era provenance, Yemen
Collection(s) Area
Ancient Near Eastern Art
Web Resource(s)
Google Cultural Institute

Rights Statement
Copyright with museum

As renovation work continues in the Freer Gallery, the Sackler Gallery also will close on July 10, 2017. This museum-wide closure will allow us to completely reinstall our exhibitions and revitalize features to improve your visit. Both spaces will reopen on October 14, 2017, when we will welcome the public back to the Freer|Sackler: two galleries, one destination. For your safety, all visitors will have their bags checked. See the complete list of restricted items and bag sizes.