Grave Stele: Old Man, late 4th century B.C.
This over-life-size figure exemplifies the elaborate relief sculpture that marked graves in Athenian cemeteries from the third quarter of the fifth century until about the late fourth century B.C. Such funerary sculptures were typically set within a rectangular architectural frame with side pilasters supporting a cornice and pediment. They usually showed the deceased accompanied by a member of the family, a slave, or a prized possession. Often two figures are present, one standing and one seated, the latter probably representing the dead individual.
In the present example, a fragment of a larger stele, an old man leans heavily on his staff while gazing downward, presumably at the deceased (now missing). Carved almost in the round, the full figure is rendered naturalistically with a sagging breast and veined hands indicative of old age. Hollow, deep-set eyes and a furrowed brow express the pathos of loss and quiet longing characteristic of fourth-century style.