“The Horrible Lady” in Istanbul: is a public non-Imperial female Portrait possible in the sixth Century AD?

  • Siri Sande University of Oslo
Keywords: art history, archaeology, sculpture, sculpture (visual works), statues, portraits, portrait head, horrible lady, Istanbul, Late Antique


In 1963 the Archaeological Museum of Istanbul purchased a female portrait of unknown provenance. It is clearly recut from an older head. In its final version, the head is late antique, but the recutting and the scarcity of comparable non-Imperial female portraits from this period have made a more secure dating difficult. Here the first half of the sixth-century ad is proposed. This article poses two main questions: 1) Is a non-Imperial female portrait in the round possible as late as the sixth century? 2) Could a woman in a period Shen covered dead were the norm, have herself portrayed with uncovered hair?

Author Biography

Siri Sande, University of Oslo

The Norwegian Institute in Rome

University of Oslo