A roman marble herm bust of Menander, circa 2nd century A.D.
Lifesized, his head turned slightly to his right, with long wavy locks of hair brushed forward over the crown of the head, the locks breaking predominantly to the left except over the proper left eye, where they break to the right, his forehead with two horizontal creases, two short vertical creases above the bridge of the nose, the small unarticulated eyes beneath modelled brows, with heavy upper lids and creases at the outer corners, the nose slender, with subtle naso-labial folds, the cheeks sunken, the lips full, with the upper lip protruding further than the lower, a slight pouch to the upper lip below the philtrum, the chin square, the bust nude, with rectangular slots centered on either side for wooden inserts. 20½ in. (52 cm.) high. Estimate $125,000 - $175,000 - Price Realized $188,500
Provenance : with Summa Galleries, Beverly Hills, mid 1980s.
Notes: Menander was born into a prominent Athenian family in 342 or 341 B.C., and died in 293 or 289 B.C. He was for a time the pupil of the philosopher Theophrastus. He staged his first play in Athens in 321 B.C. He wrote more than a hundred plays during his thirty year career. He won few victories in his lifetime, but he was posthumously considered the leading writer of New Comedy. His plays continued to be performed at least until the 5th century A.D. (see Sandbach, "Menander," in The Oxford Classical Dictionary and Green and Handley, Images of the Greek Theater, p. 71).
The Roman writer Pausanias mentions that a bronze statue of Menander was set up in the Theater of Dionysos in Athens shortly after the playwright's death, and this no doubt corresponds to a statue base found embedded in the wall behind the stage of the theater in 1862. The base was clearly for a seated figure, likely in bronze, and is inscribed for Menander and signed by Kephisodotos the Younger and Timarchos, the sons of the artist Praxiteles. The present marble herm bust and the more than fifty copies known are most likely versions of this lost Greek bronze original. The type has been securely identified as depicting Menander due to an inscribed bronze bust in the Getty Villa, an inscribed portrait medallion formerly in Marbury Hall, and a now-lost medallion formerly in Rome (see Richter, The Portraits of the Greeks, pp. 159-164). For other herm busts of Menander, see for example one in Boston, no. 121 in Comstock and Vermeule, Sculpture in Stone, and one in the Getty Villa, no. 16 in Vermeule and Neuerburg, Catalogue of the Ancient Art in the J. Paul Getty Museum.
Christie's. Antiquities. 3 June 2009. New York, Rockefeller Plaza www.christies.com