- Gallery Text
Ancient Greek drama had a long afterlife. The comic playwright Menander worked in the court of a Hellenistic ruler in the fourth to third centuries BCE, but his popularity endured into the late antique period and beyond; there are more ancient Menander portraits in existence than portraits of any other Greek writer or thinker. His own reputed skill at naturalistic portrayals may have made him such a desirable subject; Aristophanes of Byzantium famously wrote, “Oh Menander and Life! Which of you imitated the other?” This particular medallion portrait, produced long after the playwright’s death, would probably have been displayed in a Roman architectural context alongside similar portraits of Greek philosophers and playwrights. Menander, complete with dramatic scroll in the background, would have stood out for his urbane and vigorous features, and his clean-shaven chin would have contrasted with the beards of his more serious companions.
- Identification and Creation
- Object Number
- Medallion Portrait of Menander
- Work Type
- 4th century CE
- Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World, Europe
- Roman Imperial period
Level 3, Room 3400, Ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern Art, Ancient Greece in Black and Orange
View this object's location on our interactive map
- Physical Descriptions
- 55 cm h x 48 cm w x 23 cm d (21 5/8 x 18 7/8 x 9 1/16 in.)
- Hon. James Smith Barry, Marbury Hall, Cheshire, England, (acquired 1776), by descent; to the Marbury Hall Collection, (until 1987), sold; [through Christie's, London, July 10, 1987]; [through Royal-Athena Galleries, New York, 1987-1991], sold and partial gift from Jerome Eisenberg; to the Harvard University Art Museums, 1991.
- Acquisition and Rights
- Credit Line
- Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Gift in part of Dr. and Mrs. Jerome Eisenberg and Purchase in part from the Alpheus Hyatt Purchasing Fund
- Accession Year
- Object Number
- Asian and Mediterranean Art
- The Harvard Art Museums encourage the use of images found on this website for personal, noncommercial use, including educational and scholarly purposes. To request a higher resolution file of this image, please submit an online request.
- Publication History
James Cuno, Harvard's Art Museums: 100 Years of Collecting, Harvard University Art Museums/Harry N. Abrams, Inc. (Cambridge, MA, 1996), p. 118-119, ill.
A Decade of Collecting: Recent Acquisitions by the Harvard University Art Museums, exh. cat., Harvard University Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, Spring 2000), pp. 28-29
[Reproduction Only], Persephone, (Fall 2004)., p. 83.
- Exhibition History
Roman Gallery Installation (long-term), Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 09/16/1999 - 01/20/2008
Re-View: S422 Ancient & Byzantine Art & Numismatics, Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 04/12/2008 - 06/18/2011
32Q: 3400 Greek, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/01/2014
- Subjects and Contexts
Google Art Project
This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of Asian and Mediterranean Art at firstname.lastname@example.org