Height 62 cm. London, The British MuseumInv. No. 1813,0213.1.
Height 62 cm.
Inv. No. 1813,0213.1.
London, The British Museum
Gift of the Earl of Ashburnham, 1813.
Bronze statuette of Nero
Copper alloy statuette of Nero in the guise of Alexander. Silver and copper-plating and deliberately patinated black bronze detail. The figure, which is hollow cast, stands with the weight on the right leg whilst the left foot is raised and may have originally rested on a globe or helmet (now missing). The right hand originally held a spear or sceptre (now missing) and the left arm is also missing. The figure wears imperial dress of decorated boots, a short tunic and a cuirass which is richly adorned with inlaid silver and niello patterns. The face is full and plump and the hair upstanding above the brow; the lips are slightly parted and the eyes, originally inlaid with colours (now missing) gaze upwards.
Condition: The left arm is lost; also missing are the object once supporting the left foot and the spear (or sceptre) held in the right hand.
Though idealized, the facial features on this statuette do resemble those of Nero, the fifth Roman emperor (AD 54-68). This we know from his likeness on coins and official portraiture. The iconography is appropriate for an image of an emperor: the figure’s upward gaze is reminiscent of traditional representations of Alexander the Great, the Macedonian emperor (reigned 336-323 BC). Alexander was seen as the paradigm of a great leader, even in the late-Roman period.
The piece is of very high quality, with lavish use of silver- and copper-plating and deliberately patinated black bronze.
The high quality of workmanship, the use of inlay, the patterning of the cuirass, and the rather soft figure-style have all suggested that it was made in Gaul and imported into Britain, presumably in antiquity. Neither its original context nor the circumstances of its discovery can be establised with any certainly (CSIR I, 8).
Hobbs R., Jackson R., Roman Britain Life at the Edge of Empire, London, The British Museum Press, 2010, p. 37, fig. 25 (bibliographic details).
British Museum Department of British & Medieval Antiquities, Guide to the Antiquities of Roman Britain, London, The British Museum Press, 1964, p. 54, pl. 14.12 (bibliographic details).
Potter T. W., Roman Britiain, London, The British Museum Press, 1997, p. 15, fig. 7 (bibliographic details).
Stapleton C., Bowman S. G. E., Craddock P. T., La Niece S., Youngs S. M., “Corinthium aes” and black bronze in the early medieval period, The Antiquaries Journal, 75, London, The Society of Antiquaries, 1995, pp. 387—