Height 16 cm. Inv. No. 4256.Rome, Roman National Museum, Palazzo Massimo alle TermePhoto by Sergey Sosnovskiy
Height 16 cm.
Rome, Roman National Museum, Palazzo Massimo alle Terme
(Roma, Museo nazionale romano, Palazzo Massimo alle Terme).
Small Bust of an Emperor
From the Tiber, in the area of the via Giulia. The portrait is intact; at the time of its discovery, it still showed traces of the original polychromy.
Carrara (lunense) marble.
Ht. 16 cm; inv. 4256.
Small bust on a trapezoidal base, the angular head portrayed looking toward its right. The face is long, with a high flat forehead, large shallow-set eyes and a long nose. The small mouth is characterized by a receding lower lip, which accentuates the protrusion of the chin. The hair is rendered in short locks clinging to the skull, which frame the broad forehead with bangs cut straight across and divided in the middle in a “swallow’s tail” part. At first, the image was identified as Tiberius upon his accession to power, because of the characteristic disposition of the bangs across the front and the so-called “scissor” above the internal corner of the left eye. Other details, however—
Recently, Jucker and Hertel have noted the statue’s affinity with the various portraits of Caligula, and have argued, on the basis of the portraits issued on coins in AD 37-38, that it is an example of the “Fasanerie” type created at the beginning of his reign.
The original confusion is explained by the effective resemblance between the images of the two princes; Caligula in fact consciously emphasized this resemblance in order to strengthen his dynastic legitimacy. For this reason we find a number of features proper to the last statues of Tiberius (disposition of the bangs, proportions of the face and the particular type of receding lower lip). And to be true, the statue is not lacking in traits distinctive of Caligula’s image, such as the long thin face and the closely gathered eyebrows which gave the young Emperor the look of foeditas and torvitas described by literary sources. The present bust seems virtually identical to a bronze portrait, also found in the Tiber but conserved in Zurich, which dates to AD 37-41. B. Di Leo hypothesizes that they were both thrown into the river following the damnatio memoriae of Caligula. It was quite likely originally located in one of the luxurious residences on the banks of the Tiber, where the images of the princes represented a tangible sign of the imperial favor enjoyed by the owners.
Felletti Maj 1953, p. 61, no. 98; Museo Nazionale Romano I, 9. 1 (1987), pp. 141-143, R 98 (B. Di Leo) (in addition to the preceding biography).