Physical appearance was of paramount importance in Ancient Rome and much energy was invested into it, as it would have reflected an individual’s social status. Hairstyles, along with jewellery, would have been one of the principal means to showcase wealth and prestige, as well as a major determinant of physical attractiveness. Slaves would keep their hair short, to reflect their low social status, and would tend to the intricate hairstyles of their masters, a scene typically carved on gravestones. Women would normally wear their hair drawn up and controlled by hairpins and nets, as loose hair was associated with loose morals. More elaborate hairstyles would have been achieved with wigs, which were commonly made out of human hair harvested from slaves. Different hairstyles characterised different time periods: the relative simplicity of off-swept hair tied at the back into a nodus, seen under the Julio-Claudian gens, was dismissed by complex styles with towering heights and multiple components during the Flavian era.
Romano-Egyptian Terracotta Female Head
A Romano-Egyptian terracotta fragment portraying a female head. She is portrayed in a neutralistic manner, with well defined facial features. The woman’s hair is drawn up, curling at the front and neatly tied into a knot at the back, forming an intricate coiffure. This head fragment would have originally belonged to a votive statuette produced in Alexandrian workshops. Mould-made in two sections, the fragment displays on its sides the lines where the two halves were attached together in antiquity.
Provenance: From a North London gentleman collection, in storage since the 1970s; then property of a West London gentleman.
Condition: Fragment in good condition, mounted on a custom-made stand. A hole above the head, minor chips on the surface, hole to the top.