Head of Athena

Ancient Rome, early 1st century

The monumental head of Athena is a high-quality copy of the head of the goddess, the statue of which was executed in bronze, probably by Cresilas, in the 430s-420s BC. The Greek sculptor Cresilas created a new image of the goddess of wisdom and war, by emphasizing her intellectual power instead of her qualities as a stern warrioress and mighty protectress of Athens. The clarity of the regular facial features and the lips slightly opened in a smile lend a lyrical intellectuality to the appearance of the deity. Cresilas produced a brilliant masterpiece of the High Classical period, drawing on the work of his teacher - the great Phidias - without, however, eschewing innovation in the visual treatment of the cult statue. The Hermitage head is part of the statue of Athena that has not survived. It was found near Rome in 1764 and delighted the German historian of ancient art Johann Joachim Winckelmann, who considered it 'the most perfect beauty of any treasure found below ground'. Winckelmann was desperate to buy it, but he was passed over while he was 'holding council with his walllet'. The head was bought through Cardinal Albani by Lyde Browne, a director of the Bank of England and a member of the Society of Antiquaries of London. The ancient masterpied from his collection was purchased by Catherine the Great in 1784.


Head of Athena




height: 67 cm

Acquisition date:

Entered the Hermitage in 1787; originally in the Lyde Browne collection

Inventory Number:




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