Ca. 170 CE. Inv. Nos. Ma 1166 / MR 561 / N 1416.Paris, Louvre MuseumPhoto by Roger B. Ulrich
Ca. 170 CE.
Paris, Louvre Museum.
Acquired from the Borghese Collection, 1807.
7. Bust of Marcus AureliusCa. 170 A.D.
Discovered at Acqua Traversa (near Rome), 1674.
H. 33 in. (86 cm).
Purchased in 1807, formerly in the Borghese collection (MA 1166 — inv. MR 561; N 1416).
Restorer: C. Devos, 2006.
This bust, in nearly perfect condition, is characterized by the contrast between the light and brilliant skin of the face and the dark mass of hair, covered with concretions. Numerous grooves and stains on the left side of the face show that concretions were also scratched into the flesh. The sculptor clearly appreciated the play of light and shadow and enhanced it by skillfully carving (with a drill) the hair and the fringe of the Paludamentum (military cloak) that covers the cuirass. Such an approach was common in the Antonine era, when a search for visual effects distinguished it from the prevailing classicism of the eras of Hadrian and Antoninus Pius. One finds it in historical reliefs—
The Louvre has eight marbles that were discovered at Acqua Traversa: an Aphrodite of the Capitoline type, four portraits of Lucius Verus, and three portraits of Marcus Aurelius.3 They are from a group of some thirteen effigies of these sovereigns excavated from the site between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries. Acqua Traversa extends approximately ten kilometers north of Rome, along the Via Cassia (or, in this section, the Via Claudia), which begins at the Milvius Bridge. While impressive traces are still visible (despite the construction of the Villa Manzoni in 1924), nothing is known about the overall layout of the site.
In 1609, the area passed into the hands of the Borghese family. Until his death in 1621, Camillo Borghese—
In 1650, maintenance work unearthed an Aphrodite, probably the one now in the Louvre. The other finds were more modest, but in 1674, nine portraits of Lucius Verus and Marcus Aurelius were brought to light.5
The two colossal portraits of the co-emperors, now in the Louvre, came from excavations of 1720 conducted on the same spot.6 One portrait of Lucius Verus, others of Plotina and Faustina the Younger, and five idealized statues, now in the Torlonia collection, were excavated in the early nineteenth century.
The only remains that exist from the excavations of 1674 are the five portraits in the Louvre. Four others were lost—
The text of the Historia Augusta attributes the building of the villa at Acqua Traversa to Lucius Verus, at a time when, having returned from a victorious campaign against the Parthians in 166 A.D., his political influence gradually waned. The text describes the leader’s decline into debauchery, despite the exhortations of Marcus Aurelius, but with the discovery of part of the villa’s sculptural decoration, a different version of the facts emerges. The great number of portraits of the co-emperors, the unity of style that links them, and the serial production of effigies of Lucius Verus show that this ornamental and political program was inspired by the continuing idea of shared imperial power.7
The portrait of Marcus Aurelius shown here belongs to type III,8 or “Type Term 726,”9 the creation of which dates to the accession of the new emperor in 161 A.D. This type was reproduced throughout his reign, but 166 A.D., when Marcus Aurelius asserted his authority, marks the beginning of type IV, or “Museo Capitolino Imperatori 38.” So it is interesting to note that it is type III, a style that prevailed at the time of power-sharing, which is best represented at Acqua Traversa.
K. Kersauson, Catalogue des portraits romains, t. II, De l’année de la guerre civile (68—
V. Mastrodonato, “Una Residenza imperiale nel suburbio di Roma: La Villa di Lucio Vero in località Acqua Traversa”. In: Archeologia Classica, 51, 2000, pp. 203—
L’idea del bello, Viaggio per Roma nel Seicento con Giovan Pietro Bellori. Palazzo delle Esposizioni, March 29—