Bust of Omphale or Hercules



A small head on a small bust and a cylindrical foot. The face combines some masculine features such as a square jaw and pouchy cheeks with some feminine ones which are 18th century restorations: the slender nose and the tapering chin. The lips are slightly parted, the eyes looking out to the viewer. The head is broken on the neck. On the head there is a lion skin which is broken in many areas on its sides and was probably added to the head. The lion skin is tied in a knot at the front of the bust. This lion's skin suggests that this is probably the head of Hercules rather than Omphale whose representation in Roman sculpture is very rare. The hair is of an archaic fashion with long corkscrew locks at the forehead, the ends of the locks have extensive drillwork. Ashmole viewed this archaic fashion of hair as a feature of works from Asia Minor and of a fashion had survived until the 4th century BC. Bartman proposed the plaques from the Temple of Apollo in Palatine with the theme of the struggle between Hercules and Apollo for the Delphic tripod as the inspiration for the archaic representation of Hercules in this head. She also noted that the plaques also showed an oversize lion headress as the one in this head. The paws of the lionskin are too big and exaggerated and this may be the restorer's contribution to the piece. During Augustus time Hercules often became symbolic of fhe Greek East and of Antony. Dating the head is difficult because of the excessive overworking as well as because Hercules remained a favourite for Roman sculptors.