Roman, Imperial Period, ca. 1st to 3rd century CE. A incredible marble sculpture of the lifesize head of a dog - sleek, with thick, beautifully carved musculature along the length of its snout that gives the impression of a powerful animal. Long ears lie back against the dog's head and neck, their folds and curves carefully rendered. Sensitive, wide eyes look upward at the viewer from within large eyelids and a heavy, slightly creased brow. The muzzle is lightly textured, giving an impression of whiskers, and terminating in a naturalistic nose with deeply drilled nostrils. The mouth is closed, with lips clearly defined. The marble has aged to a fine red-brown that only enhances the sculptural form. Size: 12" W x 4.35" H (30.5 cm x 11 cm); 9.75" H (24.8 cm) on included custom stand.
This sculpture likely comes from a monument or memorial; the quality of the carving suggests that it was commissioned by an elite member of society. The Romans, like the Greeks before them, had several breeds of dog as we do today, and this one looks like it is a hunting dog, known as a Laconian dog - similar in form, for example, to the hunting dog found near the entrance to the temple of Artemis Brauronia on the Acropolis: https://artsandculture.google.com/asset/hunting-dog/_QFvWh0BJiGtLQ. Elite Romans reveled in hunting not as a way of putting food on the table, but as a way to demonstrate that they had the leisure time to pursue it. Hunting dogs enjoyed special affection, immortalized by a number of Roman writers. For example, in the "Cynegetica" (ca. 283 to 284 CE), a poem dedicated to Caracalla, the author describes a type of hound "for the swift chase of gazelle and deer and swift-footed hare," perhaps the exact type depicted here. "Never, with them on guard," says Virgil, "need you fear for your stalls a midnight thief, or onslaught of wolves, or Iberian brigands at your back" (Georgics, III.404ff, ca. 37 to 29 BCE).
Provenance: private Texas, USA collection, acquired in 1929 in Greece by P. Nascou (great-grand daughter), who purchased them from Mr. A.T. Gaines
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Head is a fragment from a larger sculpture. What remains is in beautiful condition with only a small chip from one ear - otherwise with very light surface wear including some weathering. The stone has attained a reddish color over time. Excellent preservation of form and details.