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Bust of a Young Boy

Roman art

This sculpture depicts a young putto with rounded, childlike forms. He has a pensive, melancholy expression, with chubby cheeks, slanted eyes with an incised iris and small, full lips. His short curly hair frames his forehead and reveals his ears. The sculpture is probably the head of a putto purchased in 1820 by Michele Ilari and mentioned for the first time in the Palazzina Borghese in 1854.

It is an elegant copy, datable to the first century CE, of a Hellenistic original.


Object details

I century A.D.
white marble
height with bust cm 29,5; head height 21,5 cm

Borghese Collection, probably acquired in 1820 by Michele Ilari (Moreno, Sforzini 1987, p. 347); mentioned for the first time in the Casino in the Indicazione of 1854, in the first room on the first floor (p. 13, no. 19). Inventario fidecommissario Borghese, 1833, C., p. 45, no. 53. Purchased by the Italian State, 1902.

Conservation and Diagnostic
  • 2004 - Liana Persichelli


This portrait is probably the ‘testa antica di marmo rappresentante un Putto’ (‘ancient marble head portraying a putto’), purchased for five scudi in June 1820 by Michele Ilari (b. 2148: Moreno, Sforzini 1987, p. 347). In the Indicazione of 1854, the sculpture is mentioned in the first room on the first floor of the Palazzina Borghese (p. 13, no. 19). In 1893, Venturi noted that it was in the third room on the first floor (p. 83). It was described in its current location, Room XX, in 2003 (Moreno, Viacava 2003, pp. 266–267, no. 258).

The bust depicts a young putto with rounded, childlike forms. His head is slightly turned to the right and bent forward, and he wears an absorbed, melancholic expression. He has chubby cheeks, slanting eyes with thin eyelids and small, full lips. His hair is gathered on top of his head, falling in long locks in the back and short curls over the forehead.

According to Lippold, the sculpture is a copy inspired by a Hellenistic original. The author compared it to two similar heads, one of which is in the Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg (Inv. 223) and the other in the Glyptothek, Munich (Inv. 477), observing, however, that the Borghese exemplar is of lesser quality. He also holds that the chest and chin are the result of modern restoration, as well as the slight inclination of the head, which must have originally been shifted towards the right shoulder (1925, p. 18, nos. 2773–2774).

Based on the delicate lines used to render the eyelids and mouth and the absence of the use of a drill for the hair, the sculpture probably dates to the first century CE.

Giulia Ciccarello

  • Indicazione delle opere antiche di scultura esistenti nel primo piano della Villa Borghese, Roma 1854 (1873), p. 13, n. 19.
  • A. Venturi, Il Museo e la Galleria Borghese, Roma 1893, p. 83.
  • G. Giusti, La Galerie Borghèse et la Ville Humbert Premier à Rome, Roma 1904, p. 46.
  • W. Amelung, P. Arndt, G. Lippold, Photographische Einzelaufnahmen antiker Sculpturen, X, 1, München 1925, p. 18, n. 2773-2774.
  • P. Della Pergola, La Galleria Borghese in Roma, (3° Edizione) Roma 1954, p. 43.
  • P. Moreno, C. Sforzini, I ministri del principe Camillo: cronaca della collezione Borghese di antichità dal 1807 al 1832, in “Scienze dell’Antichità”, 1, 1987, p. 347.
  • P. Moreno, A. Viacava, I marmi antichi della Galleria Borghese. La collezione archeologica di Camillo e Francesco Borghese, Roma 2003, pp. 266-267, n. 258.
  • Scheda di catalogo 12/ 99000063, G. Ciccarello 2020