Head of a God, Probably Zeus

about 325 B.C.

The J. Paul Getty Museum

The J. Paul Getty Museum
Los Angeles, United States

Broken off of a statue or a bust, this terracotta head of a god is a type of representation favored by artists in the Greek colonies in South Italy and Sicily . Good-quality white marble had to be imported into these colonies. Therefore, unlike their compatriots in mainland Greece, South Italian sculptors frequently used the medium of terracotta for large-scale work. This god, perhaps Zeus the king of the gods, has a rich beard and a head of curls that were made separately. The hollow head was formed by hand, and the individually shaped corkscrew curls were attached before the piece was fired. Traces of paint remain on the head--red on the hair, blue on the beard--giving some idea of its original vivid appearance. This blue paint suggests the identification of the head as Zeus, who is called "blue bearded" in the Homeric poems. The outlines of the eyes are incised in the clay. When the statue was painted, these outlines may have looked as if they were inlaid in another material.


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