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Core Record

Title alabaster head
Collection Artworld: Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts
Date 300-200 BCE
Description This object is a simplistic, larger than life size representation of a head. The nose has been modelled whereas the mouth and eyes are defined by incised grooves. The object has been roughly cut from alabaster and has an uneven texture. The stone is light brown in colour, characterised by natural verins and patches of both darker and lighter colours. A red-brown pigment has been applied to the head to represent hair, oulined by an engraved line. Traces of pigment can also be found covering the eyes and mouth. A large proportion of the nose is missing and a number of chips cover the surface.
Description Source Hannah Thomas
Cultural Context French
Id Number Current Accession 384
Location Creation Site France
Location Current Repository Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts
Subject sculpture in the round, head
Measurements 150 x 270 x 235 mm
Context This stone is alabaster of the Upper Triassic period, and not the fine-grained limestone used in all the pieces found at Roquepertuse in the south of France, from where this head is said to have come. The uncarved back shows signs of frost pitting, and remains of a brownish-red colour on the eyes around the mouth (indicating lips) and more fully on the skull cap-like hair, which is outlined by a fine engraved line. The same thin line outlines the face.
The rough stone from which the carved face emerges suggests that this may be one side of the kind of double-faced janus head known in Celtic art. The head shows stylistic characteristics that have often been described as typically 'Celtic' (see Finlay, 1973: 59-62). There is no sign of Classical influence. The eyes are bulging, sharply outlined and deep set, the damaged nose is wedge shaped and the mouth is shown as a slash. This kind of stark reduction to the most salient features is characteristic of Celtic representations of both human heads and animals. In addition, this head resembles some of the very rare survivals of Celtic stone sculpture found in widely dispersed areas in northern Europe - from the Danube basin to the mouth of the Rhone and in Britain (for British examples, see Jackson, 1973). This head was illustrated and discussed in an editorial in 'Antiquity' by Professor Glyn Daniel (1979), but no correspondence was forthcoming about its possible origin. It lacks a documented provenance and therefore cannot be attributed with certainty to any period.
Context Source Peter Lasko and Charles Avery. In: Steven Hooper (ed.). 1997. Catalogue to the Reobert and Lisa Sainsbury Collection. University of East Anglia.
Context Title Published Catalogue
Notes Reported to have come from France but object lacks provenance and therefore cannot be attributed with certainty.
Relation Referenced By Peter Lasko and Charles Avery
Relation References Finlay, I., 1973, Celtic Art. London.

Jackson, S., 1973, Celtic and Other Stone Heads. Published by S. Jackson, Shipley.

Daniel, G., 1979, Editorial. Antiquity, LIII(209), pp. 169-70.
Rights Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, UEA, Norwich, 2002. All Rights reserved
Work Type head



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