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Sculpture with portraitlike features is characteristic of the Hellenistic Age and even more so of Roman times and is even encountered in isolated cases in the Greek art of the 5th and 4th centuries BC. This head of Aristotle (384 – 322 BC) is probably based on a bronze statue, which according to literary sources was erected after the death of the philosopher in the school he had founded in Athens, the Peripatos, or Lyceum. Of the total of 20 known replicas of this head, the one in Vienna is in the best state of preservation. It is believed to be a copy from the time of the Roman emperor Claudius in the middle of the 1st century AD and is probably the most faithful rendition of the lost Greek original. The large number of replicas demonstrates the popularity of this portrait in Roman times, when the colonnaded courtyards and libraries of Roman villas were decorated with portraits of Greek poets and philosophers in order to demonstrate the high educational level of their owners. The head of Aristotle is not a stylised image of a philosopher, but rather a portrait of pronounced individuality. The wide head with its prominent, relatively flat skull is further emphasised by the ample hair at the temples. In an attempt to conceal incipient baldness, individual strands of hair fall across the forehead, which characteristically for a philosopher is lined with wrinkles (“thinker’s brow”). A short beard frames the face. The treatment of the eyes and cheeks is primarily responsible for the discreetly suggested impression of advanced age. The heavy upper eyelids make the small eyes appeared tired, and the cheeks are somewhat hollow. The mouth, which is slightly turned down at the corners, gives the face an expression of superiority and perhaps even scepticism. For several years, Aristotle tutored Alexander the Great, and Alexander is said to have honoured his teacher with a portrait statue, presumably a work by his favourite sculptor, Lysippus of Sicyon. It cannot be proved, however, that the present portrait is based on that sculpture. © Kurt Gschwantler, Alfred Bernhard-Walcher, Manuela Laubenberger, Georg Plattner, Karoline Zhuber-Okrog, Masterpieces in the Collection of Greek and Roman Antiquities. A Brief Guide to the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna 2011

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Head of Aristotle (Supplemental)

Head of Aristotle (Supplemental)

Head of Aristotle (Supplemental)

Head of Aristotle (Supplemental)

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