Roman Sculpture as “Hunting Trophy”

Sometimes you come across interesting things while doing research on an entirely different subject (as also recently noted by Mary Beard). For example, I quite like this rather odd case of Classical reception that I came across the other day. The small image to the right shows a Roman portrait head of a woman, datable to the late Antonine period. It is today in the Aust-Agder Museum in Arendal, Norway and is published in a volume on Greek and Roman Portraits in Norwegian Collections by Siri Sande (1991: 76, cat. no. 62). The most striking thing about the portrait is the large inscription incised on its throat: ‘Carthago 1864’. This makes it very clear when and where the portrait came into the possession of the modern owner! As their website makes clear, the Aust-Agder Museum is devoted to the history of seafaring, so I would assume that this head has made it to Scandinavia through a Norwegian seaman, working in the Mediterranean in the 19th century. From an archaeological perspective, I really like this inscription, especially because if you’re going to mutilate or vandalise antiquities, it’s nice to be able to firmly date your actions…

Sande, S., 1991. Greek and Roman portraits in Norwegian collections. Roma: G. Bretschneider.(Image scanned from plate LXI.)

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