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Ancient Art
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After: Polyeuctus, Greek, active 280 B.C.

Portrait of Demosthenes (384–322 B.C)

2nd century A.D.

Marble

35.4 × 21.3 × 24.5 cm (13 15/16 × 8 3/8 × 9 5/8 in.)
Rebecca Darlington Stoddard Fund
1981.47
Demosthenes, a prominent fourth-century B.C. orator and outspoken opponent of Macedonian control over Athens, committed suicide to avoid capture and execution. Decades later, the Athenians commissioned Polyeuktos to create an honorific bronze statue of the orator to stand in the Agora. Though the statue is lost, copies of the head and body made in the Roman period survive. The statue’s tensely clasped hands and slumped shoulders, seen in the image at right, express Demosthenes’s worry over the future of Athens. It is recognized as one of the first portraits to reflect the subject’s psychological condition.
Status: 
On view
Culture: 
Roman, after a Greek original
Period: 
2nd century
Classification: 
Sculpture
Provenance: 

Shobden Court, collection of Bateman-Hanbury; Northwick Park, collection of Capt. Spencer-Churchill; Christie's, June 22, 1965, lot 373; British private collection, acquired from the above, 1965; Christie's May 20, 1981, lot 283; Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn., acquired from the above, 1981..

Bibliography: 

Gisela Marie Augusta Richter, Portraits of the Greeks, 3 volumes (London: Phaidon Press, 1965), vol. 2, pp. 215–223.

“Acquisitions 1981,” Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin 38, no. 3 (Winter 1983): 54, 70, ill.

Susan B. Matheson, Noble Simplicity and Silent Greatness: Neoclassical Art 1700–1900, exh. cat. (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 1991), 8, no. 13.

Handbook of the Collections, exh. cat. (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 1992), 266, ill.

Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery’s complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of such records is ongoing.