Head of centaur

Inv. Scu 1137

The centaur’s head, larger than life-size, is raised and sharply turned to the left, with a violent torsion of the neck.

The rendering of the beard and the hair, highlighted by a strong light-and-shadow effect, enhances the anguish of the emaciated and deeply scarred face. All this conveys the image of an almost wild animal who ragingly turns to his adversary, but that is also full of dramatic pathos.

The face is not symmetrical; the structure of the single parts, in fact, is not arranged according to a coherent and precise design, but rather conveys the idea that the underlying bones are disjointed, with sophisticated, disharmonious effects and violent contrasts. The lips are slightly parted and allow to get a glimpse of the teeth, while the pointed ears are turned forward and the frowning eyebrows hide sunken eyes.

In the opinion of some scholars, the head can be recognized as an original from Pergamon, while others believe it is a copy produced by the same artistic milieu. In fact, the “baroque” inspiration that appears so evident in the centaur must be ascribed to a workshop of Rhodian artists who produced original works and were active in the palaces of Tiberius, at the emperor’s service.

Such an hypothesis is supported by the context where this sculpture was found. Actually, the same workshop must have produced the sculptures of the group of Sperlonga with which this centaur shows remarkable affinity, especially with the head of Ulysses, both stylistically, in the layout and in the details.

The head was found near Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II, on the Esquiline hill, and it is now on display after the restoration parts in plaster have been removed.