Portrait Busts: The Top 100
Sculptures of Carved Heads in Marble, Terracotta, Alabaster, Bronze, Stone.

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Portrait of Julius Caesar
("The Green Caesar") (c.25-20 BCE)
Archetypal Roman sculpture from
the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin.

Portrait Busts: The Top 100 (c.2500-1970)
Famous Portraits and Head Sculptures


What are Portrait Busts?
List of Top 100 Portrait Busts & Heads
Baroque and Neoclassical
19th Century
20th Century

Art Education Resources
- Art Evaluation
- How to Appreciate Sculpture

Bust of Roman Emperor Vitellius
Modern copy of an antique head
(c.120 CE) Louvre, Paris.

For a list of the world's top 100
3-D artworks, by the best sculptors
in the history of art, see:
Greatest Sculptures Ever.

Head of Emperor Constantine
Part of the colossal statue of the
Roman leader Constantine I (315).

What are Portrait Busts?

A portrait bust - the most intimate form of sculpture - is a carved or cast representation of the head (or head and neck). Some sculptors also include the shoulders and chest, but most do not. A bust may also be called a "Head" or a "Portrait". Portrait busts are usually supported by a plinth. A bust can be sculpted in any material used for plastic art: the most popular media include: marble, terracotta, plaster, clay, bronze, and stone. Surviving fragments of Greek sculpture are occasionally displayed as busts, when they are in fact no more than heads that have broken off full-length statues.

Top 100 Portrait Busts & Heads

Here is a collection of the most famous busts in the history of sculpture - at least in the west. Media on display includes goldsmithing and ivory carving, ancient stone sculpture from early civilizations, Roman marble sculpture, Medieval wood carving, Renaissance/Baroque bronze sculpture, Neoclassical marbles, and a wide variety of modernistic materials, from iron and cement to porcelain. Among the greatest sculptors featured, are: Lorenzo Ghiberti (1378-1455), Antonio Rossellino (1427-79), Michelangelo (1475-1564), Pierre Puget (1620-94), Antoine Coysevox (1640-1720), Jean-Antoine Houdon (1741-1828), Auguste Rodin (1840-1917), Constantin Brancusi (1876-1957), Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), Naum Gabo (1890-1977), Alberto Giacometti (1901-1966), and many others.

Ancient Portrait Busts

Portraits from the era of ancient art tend to be representations of Kings and Queens.

Venus of Brassempouy (c.23,000 BCE)
Ivory fragment. Gravettian/ Upper Perigordian Culture.
Prehistoric sculpture.

Reserve Head of a Woman (c.2551-2528)
Limestone. Egyptian Old Kingdom.
Ancient Egyptian sculpture.

Head of King Sargon of Akkad (2250)
Copper. Akkadian Empire: Iraq Museum, Bagdad.
Mesopotamian sculpture.

Gudea of Lagash (2095)
Diorite. Neo-Sumerian Period: Louvre; and Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY.
Mesopotamian sculpture.

Head of a God (c.1800)
Terracotta. Tello, Mesopotamia. Louvre Museum, Paris.
Mesopotamian sculpture.

Head of Hammurabi (c.1780)
Diorite. Babylonian Empire: Louvre, Paris.
Babylonian sculpture.

Bust of Queen Nefertiti (c.1340)
Egyptian New Kingdom, Amarna Period. Neues Museum, Berlin.
Egyptian art.

Ramses II (1279-1212)
Granite. 19th Dynasty. Egyptian National Museum, Cairo.
Egyptian sculpture.

Bust of the Prince of Marlik (1200)
Gold. National Museum of Iran, Tehran.
Ancient Persian art.

Head of a Kouros (c.500)
Cycladic marble. National Etruscan Museum, Marzabotto.
Aegean art.

Bust of Pericles (5th Century BCE)
Marble. Museo Pio Clementino, Vatican.
Greek art.

Portrait Bust of Cicero (1st Century BCE)
Marble. Uffizi Gallery, Florence.
Hellenistic Greek Sculpture.



Roman Portrait Busts

Roman art was designed above all to promote the military power and political values of the Roman Empire, whose embodiment was the figure of the emperor himself. As a result, sculptors created thousands of busts of him, which were shipped to all corners of the known world.

Portrait of Octavian (35-29 BCE)
Marble. Capitoline Museum, Rome.
Roman sculpture.

Portrait Bust of Julius Caesar (c.30-20)
Marble. Vatican Museums.

Portrait of Julius Caesar ("The Green Caesar") (c.25-20 BCE)

Basanite. Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Altes Museum Antikensammlung Berlin.

Gaius Alexander (c.1 CE)
Stone. Museum of Art and History, Geneva.

Head of Young Tiberius (c.20)
Stone. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Bust of Emperor Caligula (c.39)
Marble. Louvre, Paris.

Emperor Tiberius (41-54)
Marble. Vatican Museums.

Head of Emperor Claudius (c.44)
Marble. British Royal Collection, London.

Seneca (c.60)
Marble. Staatliche Museum, Berlin. Bust of Emperor Nero (c.54-68)
Marble. Capitoline Museum, Rome.

Empress Domitia Longina (c.65)
Stone. Louvre Paris.

Emperor Galba (c.68)
Marble. Capitoline Museum, Rome.

Bust of Emperor Trajan (c.105)
Marble. Archeological Museum, Ankara.

Bust of a Woman ("Bust Fonseca") (c.110)
Marble. Capitoline Museum, Rome.

Emperor Hadrian (117-138)
Marble. Museo Nazionale Romano, Rome.

Empress Vibia Sabina (c.120)
Stone. Louvre, Paris.

Antinous ("Mondragone Antinous") (c.130)
Louvre, Paris.

Head of Lucius Verus (c.165)
Marble. Cleveland Museum of Art.

Emperor Commodus as Heracles (180-193)
Marble. Museo Nazionale Romano, Rome.

Portrait of Emperor Caracalla (215-17)
Painted marble. Capitoline Museum, Rome.

Emperor Elagabalus (c.220)
Marble. Capitoline Museum, Rome.

Gordian II (c.238)
Marble. Capitoline Museum, Rome.

Bust of Pupienus (238)
Marble. Capitoline Museum, Rome.

Head of Balbinus (238)
Marble. Capitoline Museum, Rome.

Emperor Philip the Arab (c.246)
Marble. Vatican Museums.

Head of Emperor Decius (c.250)
Marble. Capitoline Museum, Rome.

Bust of Maxentius (c.307)
Marble. Torlonia Museum, Rome.

Head of Constantine (c.320)
Marble. Basilica Nova, Rome.

Medieval Portrait Busts

Medieval artists tended to focus almost exclusively on statues, reliefs and architectural sculpture for church exteriors and interiors. Busts were not popular.

Bust of Emperor Arcadius (early 5th Century)
Marble. Arkeologi Museum, Istanbul.
Byzantine art.

Portrait of Eutropius (mid-5th Century)
Marble. Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna.
Late Roman Art.

Emperor Frederick Barbarossa (1155-60)
Gilt Bronze. Collegiate Church of St John, Cappenberg.
Romanesque sculpture.

Reliquary Head of a Companion of Holy Ursula (c.1340)
Limewood. Musee National du Moyen Age, Paris.
Gothic wood carving.

Bust of Emperor Charles IV (1378)
Gilt Bronze. National Museum, Warsaw.
Exquisite Medieval sculpture.

Peter Parler of Gmund (1330-99)
Stone. German Gothic. St Vitus Cathedral, Prague.
German Medieval art.


Renaissance Portrait Busts

Renaissance sculptors devoted most of their efforts to mastering public figurative sculpture, in keeping with the importance placed on humanism. Private or domestic busts were less popular.

Portrait of Lorenzo Ghiberti (c.1450)
Gilt Bronze. Florence Baptistry.
Renaissance sculpture.

Piero de Cosimo de'Medici (c.1470)
Fired clay. Early Renaissance. Bargello Museum, Florence.
Terracotta sculpture.

The Young Saint John the Baptist (c.1470) by Antonio Rossellino.
Marble. National Gallery of Art, Washington DC.

Woman with Bunch of Flowers (c.1480) by Andrea del Verrocchio.
Marble. Bargello Museum, Florence.

Portrait of Isabella di Aragona, Princess of Naples (1488) by Laurana.
Coloured marble. Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna.
Early Renaissance art.

Bust of Beatrice d'Este (c.1490)
Marble. Louvre Museum, Paris.

Head of a Man (c.1520) by Conrad Meit.
Alabaster. J Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles.
Late German Gothic sculpture.

Portrait Bust of Brutus (1538) by Michelangelo.
Marble. Bargello museum, Florence.
High Renaissance sculpture.

Bust of Emperor Charles V (1553)
Bronze. Prado Museum, Madrid.

Baroque and Neoclassical Portrait Busts

Baroque sculptors received frequent commissions to sculpt busts for popes, cardinals and secular leaders. These were then often copied and circulated more widely.

Bust of Marie de Medici (1599) by Barthelemy Prieur.
Bronze. Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.

Portrait of Laudivio Zacchi (1627) by Alessandro Algardi.
Marble, Staatliche Museen, Berlin.

Francesco Bracciolini (1631)
Marble. Victoria & Albert Museum, London.
Classical Baroque sculpture.

Bust of Muzio Frangipane (c.1638) by Alessandro Algardi.
Marble. San Marcello al Corso, Rome.

Laura Frangipane (1637) by Andrea Bolgi.
Marble. San Francesco a Ripa, Rome.
Baroque art.

Bust of Pope Innocent X (1650) by Alessandro Algardi.
Bronze and Porphyry. Galleria Doria-Pamphili, Rome.
Catholic Counter-Reformation art.

Bust of a Young Man (1660) by Ercole Ferrata.
Marble. Staatliche Museen, Berlin.

Bust of Pope Alexander VII (1667) by Melchioree Caffa.
Terracotta. Palazzo Chigi, Ariccia.
Christian art, 17th century.

Jacob van Reygersberg (1671) by Rombout Verhulst.
Marble. J Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles.

Bust of Charles Lebrun (1676) by Antoine Coysevox.
Terracotta. Wallace Collection, London.

Portrait of Marie-Therese, Queen of France (1680) by Francois Girardon.
Bronze. Walters Art Museum.

Bust of Cardinal Antonio Barberini (1682) by Lorenzo Ottoni.

Marble. Museo di Roma.

Bust of Marcus Aurelius (c.1680s) by Pierre Puget.
Marble. Museo di Sant'Agostino, Genoa.

Bust of Louis XIV (1686) by Antoine Coysevox.
Bronze. Wallace Collection, London.

Le Grand Conde - Louis II de Bourbon (1688) by Antoine Coysevox.

Bronze. Louvre Museum.
Neoclassical sculpture.

Marie Adelaide of Savoy (1710) by Antoine Coysevox.
Marble. Louvre Museum, Paris.

Prince Elector Augustus I of Saxony (1718) by Paul Heermann.
Marble. Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden.

Busts of the Seasons (Autumn, Winter) (c.1720) by Paul Heermann.
Marble. Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden.
Late Baroque art.

Bust of Tsar Peter the Great (1724) by Carlo Bartolomeo Rastrelli.
Bronze. Hermitage, St Petersburg.
Petrine Art.

Alexis-Jean-Eustache Taitbout (1762) by Jean-Jacques Caffieri.
Terracotta. J Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles.

An Arch-Villain (1770-83) by Franz Xaver Messerschmidt.
Tin-lead alloy. Baroque. Osterreichische Galerie, Vienna.
One of a series of "Character Heads" (charakterkopfe)

The Hanged Man (1770-83) by Franz Xaver Messerschmidt.
Alabaster. Osterreichische Galerie, Vienna.

The Lecher (1775-83) by Franz Xaver Messerschmidt.
Marble. Osterreichische Galerie, Vienna.

The Beaked (1770-83) by Franz Xaver Messerschmidt.
Alabaster. Osterreichische Galerie, Vienna.

Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, or Moliere (1781) by Jean-Antoine Houdon.
Terracotta. Musee des Beaux-Arts, Orleans.

Portrait of Voltaire in a Toga (1778) by Jean-Antoine Houdon.
Marble. Hermitage, St Petersburg.
Neoclassical art.

Portrait of Tsar Paul I (1797) by Fedot Shubin.
Marble. Russian Museum, St Petersburg.

19th Century Portrait Busts

The era of the industrial revolution saw the emergence of the first techniques for the mass-production of artworks, like portrait busts. Heads of famous figures, like Napoleon and Goethe (among many others) were copied and sold around the world.

Bust of Napoleon I (1805) by Lorenzo Bartolini.
Bronze. Louvre Museum, Paris.

Head of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (c.1829) by David d'Angers.
Plaster. Musee d'Orsay, Paris.

Charles Philipon (1832) (Newspaper Director) by Honore Daumier.
Painted clay. Musee d'Orsay.
Caricature art.

Jean-Claude Fulchiron (1832) (Poet/Politician) by Honore Daumier.
Painted clay. Musee d'Orsay.

Dr Clement-Francois Prunelle (1832) (Politician) by Honore Daumier.
Painted clay. Musee d'Orsay.

Francois-Pierre Guizot (1832) (Prime Minister) by Honore Daumier.
Painted clay. Musee d'Orsay.

Mrs Morla Vicuna (1884) by Auguste Rodin.
Marble. Musee Rodin.
Expressionist movement.

Bust of Auguste Rodin (1888) by Camille Claudel.
Bronze. Private Collection.

George Frederick Watts (1889) by Alfred Gilbert.
Bronze. Royal Academy of Arts, London.

Bust of Sarah Bernhardt (1895) by Jean-Leon Gerome.
Marble, dye, stone. Musee d'Orsay.

Sir John Everett Millais (1896) by Edward Onslow Ford.
Bronze. Royal Academy of Arts, London.

20th Century Portrait Busts

20th Century sculptors were renowned for their use of unusual materials and 'found objects' (objets trouve) in their sculpture. Also, new movements like Cubism and Constructivism led to the proliferation of abstract and semi-abstract portrait busts and other works.

Ophelia (1900) by Maurice Bouval.
Gilt bronze and marble. Victor and Gretha Arwas Collection.
Art Nouveau.

Bust of Beethoven (1901) by Antoine Bourdelle.
Bronze. Musee Bourdelle.

The Sphinx (1902) by Boleslas Biegas.
Plaster. Musee d'Orsay.
An example of Symbolism.

Head of a Woman (1909) by Pablo Picasso.
Bronze. Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Jeanette V (c.1911) by Henri Matisse.
Bronze. Toronto Art Gallery of Ontario.

Head Series (1911-12) by Modigliani.
Stone. Various musems: Tate Gallery; MOMA New York; Guggenheim, NY.
Based on forms from African sculpture.

Sleeping Muse (1912) by Constantin Brancusi.
Marble. Musee National d'Art Moderne, Georges Pompidou Centre, Paris.
Supreme example of modern art.

Viky (Cubist Head) (c.1913) by Otto Gutfreund.
Bronze. Private Collection.
Example of Cubism.

Mlle Pogany, Version I (1913) by Constantin Brancusi.
Bronze with black patina. Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Head (1914) by Joseph Csaky.
Stone. Musee National d'Art Moderne, Georges Pompidou Centre, Paris. Cubist.

Constructed Head No. 2 (1916) by Naum Gabo.
Aluminium. Nasher Sculpture Centre, Dallas.
Example of Constructivism.

Mechanical Head (The Spirit of Our Times) (1919) by Raoul Hausmann.
Wood, leather, aluminium, brass. Musee National d'Art Moderne, Paris.
Example of Dada art.

Head of a Woman (c.1920) by Naum Gabo.
Celluloid and metal. Museum of Modern Art, New York.
Example of Constructivist art.

Portrait of Marcel Duchamp (1926) by Antoine Pevsner.
Celluloid on copper. Cubist. Yale University Art Gallery.
Russian sculpture.

Head of a Woman (1929/30) by Pablo Picasso.
Iron, sheet metal, colander and springs. Picasso Museum, Paris.

Head of a Woman (1931) by Pablo Picasso.
Bronze. Picasso Museum, Paris.
Example of Biomorphic abstraction.

Head known as "The Tunnel" (1932-33) by Julio Gonzalez.
Iron. Tate Collection, London.
Abstract sculpture.

Retrospective Bust of a Woman (1933) by Salvador Dali.
Painted porcelain, and objects. Surrealism. MOMA, New York.
Example of Surrealism.

Head of a Bull (1943) by Pablo Picasso.
Bicycle saddle and handlebars. Picasso Museum, Paris.
Wonderful example of junk art.

Portrait of Karl Hofer (1950) by Bernhard Heiliger.
Cement. Stadische Kunsthalle, Mannheim.

Head of Diego (1957) by Alberto Giacometti.
Bronze. Private Collection.

Bust of Pope John XXIII (1962) by Giacomo Manzu.
Bronze. Vatican Museums.

Divided Head (1963) by Cesar.
Bronze. Fiorini, London.
Beautiful example of bronze abstract sculpture.

Annette X (1965) by Alberto Giacometti.
Bronze. Musee National d'Art Moderne, Georges Pompidou Centre, Paris.

Portrait busts can be seen in some of the best art museums and sculpture gardens around the world.


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