Faustina the Elder, A.D. 140 - 160. This marble sculpture is Roman, and from Asia-Minor (present-day Turkey).

Annia Galeria Faustina, known as Faustina the Elder, was the wife of Antoninus Pius, who ruled the Roman empire from A.D. 137 to 161. She probably married Antoninus Pius about A.D. 110 and they had four children. The marriage appears to have been quite loving compared to others in the Imperial family. Although she died twenty years before him, Antoninus Pius did not remarry. On her death in A.D. 141, Antoninus Pius declared Faustina divine and built a temple in her honor in the Roman Forum.

Portraits of Faustina can be identified by her distinctive hairstyle and facial features. This slightly over life-size statue combines a conventional portrait head for the empress with a standardized body type, referred to as a “Large Herculaneum Woman” by scholars. The size of this statue indicates that it occupied a public space, perhaps a city square or a temple dedicated to the divine Faustina. Although they are now missing, Faustina may have held attributes of poppies and ears of wheat in her lowered left hand. That being the case, this statue would have portrayed the empress in the guise of Ceres, the goddess of fertility. (getty)

Courtesy of & currently located at the Getty Villa, Malibu, 70.AA.113. Photos taken by Harvey Barrison.

Bronze statuette of a veiled and masked dancer. Greek, 3rd–2nd century B.C.

The complex motion of this dancer is conveyed exclusively through the interaction of the body with several layers of dress.

Over an undergarment that falls in deep folds and trails heavily, the figure wears a lightweight mantle, drawn tautly over her head and body by the pressure applied to it by her right arm, left hand, and right leg. Its substance is conveyed by the alternation of the tubular folds pushing through from below and the freely curling softness of the fringe.The woman’s face is covered by the sheerest of veils, discernible at its edge below her hairline and at the cutouts for the eyes. Her extended right foot shows a laced slipper. This dancer has been convincingly identified as one of the professional entertainers, a combination of mime and dancer, for which the cosmopolitan city of Alexandria was famous in antiquity. (MET)

Courtesy of & currently located at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, via their online collections1972.118.95.

Reclining Buddha at Gal Vihara, Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka.
Polonnaruwa was the second capital of Sri Lanka following the destruction of Anuradhapura in 993. Within Polonnaruwa is one of the largest sculptures in Southeast Asia: the reclining Buddha, which measures 14 metres long.
It is thought by some to be the finest achievement of Sinhalese monumental sculpture. K M de Silva in A History of Sri Lanka writes the following on the sculpture: ”The consummate skill with which the peace of the enlightenment has been depicted, in an extraordinarily successful blend of serenity and strength, has seldom been equalled by any other Buddha image in Sri Lanka.”
Photo taken by Jerzy Strzelecki.

Reclining Buddha at Gal Vihara, Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka.

Polonnaruwa was the second capital of Sri Lanka following the destruction of Anuradhapura in 993. Within Polonnaruwa is one of the largest sculptures in Southeast Asia: the reclining Buddha, which measures 14 metres long.

It is thought by some to be the finest achievement of Sinhalese monumental sculpture. K M de Silva in A History of Sri Lanka writes the following on the sculpture: ”The consummate skill with which the peace of the enlightenment has been depicted, in an extraordinarily successful blend of serenity and strength, has seldom been equalled by any other Buddha image in Sri Lanka.

Photo taken by Jerzy Strzelecki.

Sculptures of a young and adult Nero.

Nero became emperor of the Roman Empire in AD 54, and reigned for 13 years before committing suicide in AD 68. Nero is remembered as being particularly notorious -very few surviving ancient sources paint him in a favourable light, and he is often noted today for his persecution of the Christians.

Much of what our Roman historians record can’t be taken at face value, but it provides some entertaining reading nonetheless. Below is my personal favourite account of Nero:

Suetonius, Life of Nero, 23:

While he was singing no one was allowed to leave the theatre even for the most urgent reasons. And so it is said that some women gave birth to children there, while many who were worn out with listening and applauding, secretly leaped from the wall, since the gates to the entrance were closed, or faked death and were carried out as if for burial.” 

The first sculpture shown is courtesy of and located at the Romisch-Germanisches Museum, Cologne; and the second, the Glyptothek. Photos taken by Carole Raddato and F. Tronchin.

This colossal Roman statue of a female has been restored as the muse Melpomene with the addition of a modern mask. It is however thought that this sculpture might have originally been part of the Theatre of Pompey in Rome. For comparison, here is a later well-known Roman sculpture of Melpomene. 
Melpomene was one of the 9 Muses (Mousai), and was first the Muse of singing, and later the Muse of tragedy, the latter for which she is best known today. In this guise she was often portrayed to be holding a tragic mask or sword.
The following passage was written by Greek historian Diodorus Siculus during the 1st century BC (Library of History 4. 7. 1, trans. Oldfather):
"To each of the Mousai (Muses) men assign her special aptitude for one of the branches of the liberal arts, such as poetry, song, pantomimic dancing, the round dance with music, the study of the stars, and the other liberal arts … For the name of each Mousa (Muse), they say, men have found a reason appropriate to her: … Melpomene, from the chanting (melodia) by which she charms the souls of her listeners." 
This sculpture is 12’7” in height, and dates to ca. 50 BC.
Artifact courtesy of the Louvre, France. Accession number: Ma 411 (MR 269). Photo taken by Eric Gaba.

This colossal Roman statue of a female has been restored as the muse Melpomene with the addition of a modern mask. It is however thought that this sculpture might have originally been part of the Theatre of Pompey in Rome. For comparison, here is a later well-known Roman sculpture of Melpomene. 

Melpomene was one of the 9 Muses (Mousai), and was first the Muse of singing, and later the Muse of tragedy, the latter for which she is best known today. In this guise she was often portrayed to be holding a tragic mask or sword.

The following passage was written by Greek historian Diodorus Siculus during the 1st century BC (Library of History 4. 7. 1, trans. Oldfather):

"To each of the Mousai (Muses) men assign her special aptitude for one of the branches of the liberal arts, such as poetry, song, pantomimic dancing, the round dance with music, the study of the stars, and the other liberal arts … For the name of each Mousa (Muse), they say, men have found a reason appropriate to her: … Melpomene, from the chanting (melodia) by which she charms the souls of her listeners." 

This sculpture is 12’7” in height, and dates to ca. 50 BC.

Artifact courtesy of the Louvre, France. Accession number: Ma 411 (MR 269). Photo taken by Eric Gaba.

A quick look at: Germanicus, a prominent Roman general of the early Empire, and the grandson-in-law of Augustus Caesar.
"Germanicus, too, that he might be the better known, took his helmet off his head and begged his men to follow up the slaughter, as they wanted not prisoners, and the utter destruction of the nation would be the only conclusion of the war. And now, late in the day, he withdrew one of his legions from the field, to intrench a camp, while the rest till nightfall glutted themselves with the enemy’s blood. Our cavalry fought with indecisive success." -Tacitus, Annals (2.26), via The Internet Classics Archive.
Germanicus Julius Caesar (15 BC-AD 19), usually just referred to as Germanicus, was a member of the Julio-Claudian dynasty and the nephew and adopted son of Tiberius. He commanded 8 Roman legions on the Rhine frontier with distinction. He appears to have gained affection among the Roman people; Suetonius in Life of Caligula III describes his “…unexampled kindliness, and a remarkable desire and capacity for winning men’s regard and inspiring their affection." He died aged 33 on October 9 of AD 19, it was a suspected poisoning. 
Great honours were granted to Germanicus after his death and he was elevated to a god-like status:

[…] Five voting centuries were to be named after him; a curule chair was to be kept in the temple of the new god, the temples were to be closed on the day that Germanicus’ ashes were interred and sacrifices were to be made on that day each year at his tomb.
[…] In public, all due honours were granted to Germanicus. The only oddity was that Tiberius and his mother did not attend the internment. Some bad feeling may have been read into this by Germanicus’ supporters, but this would seem to be an over-reaction.
-Richard Alston in Aspects of Roman History AD 14–117, page 28.

Sculpture courtesy of & currently located at the Louvre, France. Photo taken by Jastrow. The sculpture dates to circa 40 AD, Accession number: Ma 1238.

A quick look at: Germanicus, a prominent Roman general of the early Empire, and the grandson-in-law of Augustus Caesar.

"Germanicus, too, that he might be the better known, took his helmet off his head and begged his men to follow up the slaughter, as they wanted not prisoners, and the utter destruction of the nation would be the only conclusion of the war. And now, late in the day, he withdrew one of his legions from the field, to intrench a camp, while the rest till nightfall glutted themselves with the enemy’s blood. Our cavalry fought with indecisive success." -Tacitus, Annals (2.26), via The Internet Classics Archive.

Germanicus Julius Caesar (15 BC-AD 19), usually just referred to as Germanicus, was a member of the Julio-Claudian dynasty and the nephew and adopted son of Tiberius. He commanded 8 Roman legions on the Rhine frontier with distinction. He appears to have gained affection among the Roman people; Suetonius in Life of Caligula III describes his “…unexampled kindliness, and a remarkable desire and capacity for winning men’s regard and inspiring their affection." He died aged 33 on October 9 of AD 19, it was a suspected poisoning.

Great honours were granted to Germanicus after his death and he was elevated to a god-like status:

[…] Five voting centuries were to be named after him; a curule chair was to be kept in the temple of the new god, the temples were to be closed on the day that Germanicus’ ashes were interred and sacrifices were to be made on that day each year at his tomb.

[…] In public, all due honours were granted to Germanicus. The only oddity was that Tiberius and his mother did not attend the internment. Some bad feeling may have been read into this by Germanicus’ supporters, but this would seem to be an over-reaction.

-Richard Alston in Aspects of Roman History AD 14–117, page 28.

Sculpture courtesy of & currently located at the Louvre, France. Photo taken by Jastrow. The sculpture dates to circa 40 AD, Accession number: Ma 1238.

A quick look at: Senwosret III, the 5th king of Egypt’s 12th Dynasty. 
Who was he, and why is he so stern-looking in his artistic representations?
Pictured: Three granite statues of Senwosret III at the British Museum.
Following the decline of Egypt’s Old Kingdom (about 2613-2160 BC), royal power was devolved to nomarchs (provincial governors), leading Egypt into the First Intermediate Period.

Egyptologists traditionally distinguish between the major periods of pharaonic history on the basis of the political state of the country. ‘Kingdoms’ -defined as times of political unity and strong, centralized government -alternate with the ‘intermediate periods’, which are in contrast characterized by the rivalries of local rulers in their claims for power. (-Stephan Seidlmayer, in The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt, pg. 108).

The Middle Kingdom (approx. 2055-1650 BC), however, saw the re-centralization of power and the disappearance of these nomarchs and their families. Senwosret III was an instrumental player in this, with his domestic policy focused on reorganizing the administrative system; he also greatly strengthened Egypt’s control over Nubia. 
There is a significant difference between the royal statues of the Old and Middle Kingdoms. Those of the Middle Kingdom overall become larger in size, and markedly sterner-looking in expression. I side with those Egyptologists who suggest that the recent memory of the First Intermediate Period was the cause of this; following the loss of kingship to the nomarchs, the kings of the Middle Kingdom felt the need to exhort their power and authority in more obvious manners -such as through their artistic representations.

This powerfully realistic portrait of Senwosret III [the middle statue shown] was clearly intended to inspire awe in the onlooker. The authority of the Pharaoh is conveyed by the stern gaze and the downturned, almost grimacing, mouth. (-Rita Freed in Ancient Egypt, pg 218).

A good example which I usually give when comparing is this Old Kingdom statue of Khafre at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. 
Artifacts shown courtesy & currently located at the British Museum, London. Photo taken by Stevan Hubbard.

A quick look at: Senwosret III, the 5th king of Egypt’s 12th Dynasty.

Who was he, and why is he so stern-looking in his artistic representations?

Pictured: Three granite statues of Senwosret III at the British Museum.

Following the decline of Egypt’s Old Kingdom (about 2613-2160 BC), royal power was devolved to nomarchs (provincial governors), leading Egypt into the First Intermediate Period.

Egyptologists traditionally distinguish between the major periods of pharaonic history on the basis of the political state of the country. ‘Kingdoms’ -defined as times of political unity and strong, centralized government -alternate with the ‘intermediate periods’, which are in contrast characterized by the rivalries of local rulers in their claims for power. (-Stephan Seidlmayer, in The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt, pg. 108).

The Middle Kingdom (approx. 2055-1650 BC), however, saw the re-centralization of power and the disappearance of these nomarchs and their families. Senwosret III was an instrumental player in this, with his domestic policy focused on reorganizing the administrative system; he also greatly strengthened Egypt’s control over Nubia. 

There is a significant difference between the royal statues of the Old and Middle Kingdoms. Those of the Middle Kingdom overall become larger in size, and markedly sterner-looking in expression. I side with those Egyptologists who suggest that the recent memory of the First Intermediate Period was the cause of this; following the loss of kingship to the nomarchs, the kings of the Middle Kingdom felt the need to exhort their power and authority in more obvious manners -such as through their artistic representations.

This powerfully realistic portrait of Senwosret III [the middle statue shown] was clearly intended to inspire awe in the onlooker. The authority of the Pharaoh is conveyed by the stern gaze and the downturned, almost grimacing, mouth. (-Rita Freed in Ancient Egypt, pg 218).

A good example which I usually give when comparing is this Old Kingdom statue of Khafre at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. 

Artifacts shown courtesy & currently located at the British Museum, London. Photo taken by Stevan Hubbard.

The Iberian Biche of Balazote, from Balazote (Albacete, Spain). Dates to the 4th-5th centuries B.C.E.
This sculpture represents an androcephalic bull (a mythical animal with the body of a bull and a human head). It formed part of a funerary monument in which it performed the function of guardian and protector.

The head is sculptured from a different block to that used for the body. The mouth is small, the eyes large, there are the remains of horns (which have not been preserved), and below them the ears. The hair is indicated by tufts using a straight incision. In terms of iconography it is identified with the representation of Achelous, a Greek river god.
Combined with its features and general style this means it can be considered a work of Greek influence created on an underlying oriental base.These doe figures consisting of multiple incised strokes engraved on shoulder blades have only been found in a specific region along the northern coast of Spain and may be interpreted as symbols identifying a territorial group.

Courtesy & currently located at the National Archaeological Museum of Spain, Madrid. Photo taken by Rowanwindwhistler via the Wiki Commons.

The Iberian Biche of Balazote, from Balazote (Albacete, Spain). Dates to the 4th-5th centuries B.C.E.

This sculpture represents an androcephalic bull (a mythical animal with the body of a bull and a human head). It formed part of a funerary monument in which it performed the function of guardian and protector.

The head is sculptured from a different block to that used for the body. The mouth is small, the eyes large, there are the remains of horns (which have not been preserved), and below them the ears. The hair is indicated by tufts using a straight incision. In terms of iconography it is identified with the representation of Achelous, a Greek river god.

Combined with its features and general style this means it can be considered a work of Greek influence created on an underlying oriental base.These doe figures consisting of multiple incised strokes engraved on shoulder blades have only been found in a specific region along the northern coast of Spain and may be interpreted as symbols identifying a territorial group.

Courtesy & currently located at the National Archaeological Museum of Spain, Madrid. Photo taken by Rowanwindwhistler via the Wiki Commons.

Dharmarajika, a large Buddhist stupa in Taxila, Pakistan.

Taxila is an important archaeological site in the Punjab province of Pakistan, and presents to us the stages in the development of a city on the Indus that was alternately influenced by Persia, Greece and Central Asia. From the 5th century BC to the 2nd century AD it was also a Buddhist centre of learning.

Dharmarajika is both the largest and earliest of the Buddhist religious complexes at Taxia. It was built to enshrine the holy relics of Buddha by Asoka the Great, who was also known as "Dharmaraja", (thus name the name of the site being "Dharmarajka").

This circular stupa is 45 metres high, and constructed in solid stone masonry. It was unfortunately significantly damaged during an earthquake in 40 AD, and was rebuilt twice under Kushana rulers. Stone sculptures depicting Buddha and his life adorned the stupa. 

During the end of the 5th century, the empire of the Kidara Kushanas was lost to the White Huns. Trade was disrupted, and the economic prosperity diminished, leaving places like Dharmarajika without royal patronage. Dharmarajika was ultimately abandoned like many of the other Buddhist Sangharamas at Taxia.

Photos taken by Anduze traveller.

Carved head thought to represent Quetzalcoatl found at Teotihuacan, similar to the type seen at the Temple of Quetzalcoatl. Such sculptures adorned the doorways and patios of temples and dwelling units, as well as the facades of the latter.
Teotihuacan (‘the place where the gods were created’) is about 50 km north-east of Mexico City, and was built between the 1st and 7th centuries AD. A prominent feature at this archaeological site is the Temple of Quetzalcoatl (sometimes also referred to as the Temple of the Plumed Serpent), which is where this carved head likely came from.
One of the most important gods of the Aztec pantheon, Quetzalcoatl is a creator god, and the patron of merchants, knowledge, and crafts.

Quetzalcoatl, the Feathered Serpent, is a very complex god, with many aspects and spheres of influence. 
According to an Aztec myth of creation there were four suns (or worlds) before the present one. Each sun was created and destroyed in a different way, and inhabited by a different race of people. Each sun was also presided over by a different deity.
After the destruction of the Fourth Sun, Quetzalcoatl and Tezcatlipoca created the earth and the heavens by tearing apart the earth monster, Tlaltecuhtli.
-Clara Bezanilla, A Pocket Dictionary of Aztec and Mayan Gods and Goddesses.

Artifact courtesy & currently located at the Teotihuacan Museum, Mexico. Photo taken by Travis S.

Carved head thought to represent Quetzalcoatl found at Teotihuacan, similar to the type seen at the Temple of Quetzalcoatl. Such sculptures adorned the doorways and patios of temples and dwelling units, as well as the facades of the latter.

Teotihuacan (‘the place where the gods were created’) is about 50 km north-east of Mexico City, and was built between the 1st and 7th centuries AD. A prominent feature at this archaeological site is the Temple of Quetzalcoatl (sometimes also referred to as the Temple of the Plumed Serpent), which is where this carved head likely came from.

One of the most important gods of the Aztec pantheon, Quetzalcoatl is a creator god, and the patron of merchants, knowledge, and crafts.

Quetzalcoatl, the Feathered Serpent, is a very complex god, with many aspects and spheres of influence. 

According to an Aztec myth of creation there were four suns (or worlds) before the present one. Each sun was created and destroyed in a different way, and inhabited by a different race of people. Each sun was also presided over by a different deity.

After the destruction of the Fourth Sun, Quetzalcoatl and Tezcatlipoca created the earth and the heavens by tearing apart the earth monster, Tlaltecuhtli.

-Clara Bezanilla, A Pocket Dictionary of Aztec and Mayan Gods and Goddesses.

Artifact courtesy & currently located at the Teotihuacan Museum, Mexico. Photo taken by Travis S.