1st Century AD
9.5″ (24.1cm) high x 6.25″ (15.9cm) wide
This imperial portrait head originates from one of the North African provinces of the Roman Empire. From the time of Augustus onwards the imperial family and its circle monopolised official public statuary. Imperial portraits were displayed in sebasteia, or temples of the imperial cult. Along with coins, sculpture was the preferred means of disseminating the emperor’s image. Scholars believe that official portraits were created in the capital city of Rome and disseminated across the empire to serve as prototypes for local workshops. Despite this attempt at uniformity, local stylistic traits could not be suppressed and there was great regional variety across the empire.
This marble bust depicts Julius Caesar whose military and political career witnessed the transition between the end of the Roman Republic and the foundation of the Empire. Renowned for his military conquests in Gaul and his attempted invasion of Britain in 55 B.C., Caesar soon won immense popular support. As a member of the triumvirate his reputation grew, and led to his victory in the civil war that followed the break-up of this partnership. In popular imagination Caesar is perhaps most notorious for the manner of his death, assassinated on the Ides of March, 44 B.C. by a group of aristocrats who feared his growing authority. Ironically, for these defenders of Republicanism, their actions only speeded the demise of the Republic. A second civil war followed and the Empire then became consolidated under Caesar’s adopted son Octavius, later known as Augustus.
Partly in reaction to the popular outrage at Caesar’s murder, the Senate decided to deify him in 42 B.C. Marble busts proliferated and this piece is a particularly fine example of the phenomenon. The head is tilted slightly to the right and the gaze is pensive. There is a suggestion of clothing at the base of the neck but the block of marble retains a slightly unfinished appearance that adds to its charm. Carved in very high relief, rather than in the round, the surface has an attractive warm patinaLogin to view price