Portrait of Ptolemy, king of Numidia and Mauretania.
Inv. No. 2253.
Rome, Vatican Museums, Chiaramonti Museum, New wing, 65
(Musei Vaticani, Museo Chiaramonti)
As the grandson of Cleopatra and Marcus Antonius, the last of the Ptolemies, Ptolemy of Mauretania was related to the final three Julio-Claudian emperors, Caligula, Claudius and Nero. Ptolemy was the son of Cleopatra and Antonius’s daughter, Cleopatra Selene and Juba II of Mauretania. Ptolemy succeeded his father as king of Mauretania in 23. Ptolemey’s sculpted images, especially those of his first portrait type created during the reign of his father, visually stress his links to the Julio-Claudians in the youthful physiognomy and the arrangement of comma shaped locks over the forehead175. Ptolemy’s distant cousin, Caligula, however, apparently grew suspicious of the young king and his ties to the Julio-Claudian dynasty and had him executed on charges of treason in 40; the kingdom of Mauretania was then promptly annexed as a province of the Roman Empire176. Indeed, Ptolemy may have been involved in the conspiracy of 39, which also included Caligula’s sisters (and Ptolemy’s cousins) and Ptolemy also had connections with Gaetulicus, another of the conspirators177. After his execution, images of Ptolemy would likely have been destroyed or removed from public display. This would be especially true of wellpreserved type 2 likenesses from the environs of Rome in the Vatican178, Villa Albani179, and Woburn Abbey180 which may have been warehoused following Ptolemy’s downfall. Portraits from Ptolemy’s capital, Cherchel, in Paris181 and Cherchel182 were also likely removed from public view after the annexation of the province, as was a bronze bust of unknown provenance183. Damaged, weathered, and fragmentary portraits from Cherchel may have been also disposed of in a more violent or summary fashion184.
175 K. Fittschen (1974) 169—
176 Sen. Tranq. 11.12; Suet. Cal. 35.1; Dio 59.29.1; A. Barrett (1989) 116—
177 A. Barrett (1989) 118.
178 Braccio Nuovo 65, inv. 2253; R.R.R. Smith (1988a) 180, no. 130.1 (with earlier literature).
179 inv. no. 58, h. 0.25 m.; R.R.R. Smith (1988a) 180, no. 130.4; P.C. Bol (1990) 181—
180 h. 0.34 m.; E. Angelicoussis (1992) 56, no. 24, figs. 117-20, 127 (with earlier literature).
181 MA 1888 (type 2), h. 0.28 m.; K. de Kersauson (1986) 126-7, no. 57, with figs. (with earlier literature); R.R. R. Smith (1988a) 179, no. 129.3, pls. 69.1-2. MA 1887 (type 2), h. 0.37 m.; K. de Kersauson (1986) 128-9, no. 58, with figs. (with earlier literature); R.R.R. Smith (1988a) 180, no. 130.5, pl. 69.3-4.
182 Museum 52; R.R.R. Smith (1988a) 179, no. 129.2 (with earlier literature).
183 Sweden, private collection; R.R.R. Smith (1988a) 179, no. 129.1 (with earlier literature).
184 Louvre, MA 3183, h. 0.19 m.(type I); K. de Kersauson (1986) 130-31, with figs. (with earlier literature); R.R. Smith (1988a) 179, no. 129.4; Cherchel, Museum; R.R.R. Smith (1988a) 180, no. 130.3 (with earlier literature); Cherchel, Museum 40; R.R.R. Smith (1988a) 180, no. 130.6 (with earlier literature).
E. R. Varner. Mutilation and transformation: damnatio memoriae and Roman imperial portraiture. BRILL, 2004, p. 103.