Sometime between 300-400B.C., an unknown artist in Morgantina, Italy carefully sculpted this terra-cotta replica of the famed god of the Underworld, the feared Hades. The skull or head itself was carefully sculpted on its own, and later the curly hair and beard were individually added, one curl at a time, just before the final firing in the kiln. Afterwards, it was carefully painted, and some parts of the paint remain such as the red in his hair and the blue in his beard. This beautiful artifact is an amazingly well-preserved momento of painstaking artistry.
The piece goes by both the name “Head of Hades” and “Bluebeard” and was illegally excavated from an Italian archaeological dig during the 1970s. Afterwards it was sold and ended up at the Getty Museum in the USA.
According to the Getty Website, the work was initially believed to be a depiction of Hades’ brother, Zeus (known occasionally as Bluebeard). However, examination of the nearby discovered artifacts and the knowledge that Morgantina worshipped Persephone (kidnapped wife of Hades), they now believe it is actually Hades instead. The kidnapping of Persephone is thought to have occurred at a lake near the city.
Long story short, because the work was illegally excavated, it technically still belongs to Italy and was stolen property, meaning the Getty had to repatriate the bust to its nation of origin. Although the legal exchange happened a couple years ago, the official trade occurred recently when Italian officials arrived to take over possession.
One of the interesting notes to me is the fact that the Getty has owned this work since 1985 (almost 20 years) according to their own website. It is unclear why it took so long for them to return the stolen relic.
Either way, the work is finally home as Hades returns to his royal lands, protecting the good and punishing the wicked as they pass into his deadly realm.