Why Are Many Greek or Roman Statues Missing Heads
Updated 12/17/2022 7:25 PM By Alice
We often see some ancient art sculptures in museums or other places with monuments. They have no heads or some other parts. Why do these sculptures have no heads or arms? A lot of people think maybe it’s just because the marble statues were shipped to other places and lost parts, maybe they were destroyed on purpose, or maybe they were really too old, easy to wear and tear, and easy to break. But looking back at the Romans, they were excellent collectors and lovers of art, Greek art to be precise. I could see the Romans as having excellent organization and order. Their sculptures would certainly be handled with proper care, it would be unreasonable to damage them, and they would certainly be inclined to create meaningful sculptures out of the best materials. So we tend to think that headless sculptures must have been created for a reason.
The Production Principle of Ancient Roman or Greek Statues:
First of all, we need to understand how the marble statues of ancient Greece and Rome were made. As their marble statues are created, the artist creates the torso and legs and finally attaches the arms and head to the existing frame. Their heads and limbs were usually made separately and fastened to the statue’s torso using pins and tenons of metal and stone. Occasionally, cement is used to hold smaller components in place.
So as time and circumstances occur, such as earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, or human intervention (such as war) or cause intentional or unintentional damage, weapons are first eliminated. That’s why ancient statues usually don’t have arms. or headless. or both.
Why Make a Statue That could Be Disassembled?
In ancient times, the Romans and Greeks purposely made statues with detachable heads. For this purpose, they specifically commissioned the statue with a detachable head. In fact, if a sculpture (of a hero, eminent person, or ruler) loses its name, honor, or dies, the head is easily removed and replaced by a new hero, better-known person, or a new ruler. In these cases, the sculptures with detachable heads have typically and ideally impersonal bodies, mostly clad in robes. They might have specified that hands, limbs, or other body parts were also removable, but since the Romans considered the head an important factor in the identity of the bearer, most statues had removable heads.
Some Examples Show:
One of the most famous sculptures is that of Antinous. By order of the emperor Hadrian, you removed the head of Apollo from his statue and installed the bust of Antinous. Antinous came from the town of Bithynion-Claudiopolis, now known as Northwest Turkey. Supposedly he was taken during Hadrian’s tour of the province of Claudiopolis, Antinous came to the emperor’s house and later became his favorite. It would dominate today, but in the promiscuity of ancient Greece and the Roman Empire, the relationship between the emperor and Antinous was part of both the norm and the exception of ancient societies. No one knows exactly when Hadrian was drawn to Antinus until he died in the Nile in Egypt, either drowned or sacrificed.
Another example of this feature is the statue in the Roman Theater of Orange 3. The statues represent Roman emperors, and it is said that every time there is a new emperor, a head is molded to replace the existing one. Then the old ones are discarded and eventually lost.
If someone was hated, after his death the Romans would chisel and destroy any statues of them. Often, the nose or facial features of a statue are targeted to disfigure and humiliate the person it represents. Furthermore, emperors who succeeded rivals would try to erase the memory of their predecessors by tearing down their statues and erasing them from history. This policy is known as “damnatio memoriae”.
So on the whole, the marble art statues handed down from Rome and Greece are missing heads or some arms or other limbs. These are not just lost or damaged because of too long a time. Part of the reason is that their heads and limbs could be disassembled, so in some situations, people specifically disassemble their heads or limbs.