2nd–3rd centuries CE
Hedingham Castle, Essex, England
1 3/16 × 1 3/16 × 13/16 in. (3 × 3 × 2 cm)
0.402 oz. (11.4 g)
Bequest of David P. Harris ('46), 2020
Purchased by David P. Harris from Julia Schottlander (Tetragon) in London on October 23, 1993. Said to be from the collection of Hedingham Castle as early as the 18th century.
Marginal buildup of grime in the hollowed-out back. Green patina is most prominent around the left side of the nose. Hole in the middle of the hairline filled in with a different material that is visibly lighter than the rest of the bronze.
Sacha Franjola (’26), October 2023
This small bronze head, which wears a pointed cap, likely depicts the Phrygian cult deity Attis. The head has rounded edges with slight angularity at the chin and the sides of the cap, contributing to a generally childlike appearance that is consistent with other comparable depictions of this figure. There is a soft, U-shaped detail accentuating the chin and differentiating the bounds of the face from the rest of the head, which is hollow on the backside. The figure’s mouth is unsmiling but appears slightly ajar as if he is about to speak. Compositionally, the head is symmetrical with mostly equal curves on either side of the nose and wide eyes that highlight a sense of innocence and curiosity. The edges of the cap give the head a vaguely rhombus-like shape. At its crux, the fabric flops forward towards the face (not unlike a Dickensian sleeping cap) and further softens the appearance of the head. The cap is likely an example of the Phrygian cap, seen in most depictions of Attis. Between the face and the edge of the cap, a crop of short, wavy hair is visible that invokes a youthful and unimposing aura. Directly in the middle of the hairline is a circular repair in a visibly different color that interrupts the harmony of the composition despite largely complying with the symmetry. Given the functions of relevant comparanda, it is likely that this repair is concealing the hole through which the head would have been attached to a chest or other piece of furniture as decoration. Perhaps the most obvious evidence of Attis’ adolescence is the lack of wrinkles or other indicators of age on the face, despite the surface patina being denser (and thus more opaque) on the left side than the right. There is obvious verdigris on the left side of the nose, somewhat obscuring the details of the left eye and nose. The figure’s childlike appearance is an important indication of his identity; coupled with the Phrygian cap, images of Attis almost always depict him as obviously youthful on account of his mythology, which involves self-castration as a result of temporary madness. Based on these details, one can confidently identify this figure as that of Attis.
Sacha Franjola (’26)