The Pseudo-Seneca is a Roman bronze bust of the late 1st century BC that was discovered in the Villa of the Papyri at Herculaneum in 1754, the finest example of about two dozen examples depicting the same face. It was originally believed to depict Seneca the Younger, the notable Roman philosopher, because its emaciated features were supposed to reflect his Stoic philosophy. However, modern scholars agree it is likely a fictitious portrait, likely intended for either Hesiod or Aristophanes. It is thought that the original example was a lost Greek bronze of ca. 200 BC. The bust is conserved in the Museo Archeologico Nazionale, Naples.
"Pseudo-Seneca" is also used for the uncertain authors of various antique and medieval texts such as De remediis fortuitorum, which purport to be by the Roman author. At least some of these seem to preserve and adapt genuine Senecan content, for example Saint Martin of Braga's (d. c. 580) Formula vitae honestae, or De differentiis quatuor virtutumvitae honestae ("Rules for an Honest Life", or "On the Four Cardinal Virtues"). Early Mss. preserve Martin's preface, where he makes it clear that this was his adaption, but in later copies this was omitted, and the work became thought fully Seneca's work.
Portraits of ancient worthies like this were once valued more because of who they represented than their artistic merit. This head was identified as Seneca from 1598 until 1813, when another portrait now in Berlin was found, inscribed with Seneca’s name but looking quite different.
Once it was established that this was not the Roman orator, poet and dramatist Seneca, art historians paid more attention to the portrait’s intrinsic qualities. That probably explains why this particular “pseudo-Seneca”, one of about forty similar copies, was largely unknown for nearly a century after its discovery.
Whoever this man was he was clearly popular in the Bay of Naples area, as most of the similar sculptures, bronze and marble, have been found there. On the original the whites of the eyes, made of bone, are still in place