Ca. 38 CE. Inv. No. 6383.Syracuse, Regional Archaeological Museum “Paolo Orsi”Photo by Ilya Shurygin
A fragment of the head of Caligula.
Ca. 38 CE.
Syracuse, Regional Archaeological Museum “Paolo Orsi”
(Museo Archeologico Regionale “Paolo Orsi”).
THE MUTILATED AND ALTERED PORTRAITS OF NERO
2. 3. Syracuse, Museo Nazionale, inv. 6383
Marble head (fragment).
Provenance: Syracuse, Roman Forum.
V. Poulsen, Once More the Young Nero, in ActaA 25, 1954, p. 294, figs. 1—
V. Poulsen, Les portraits romains 1 (Copenhagen 1962), p. 100, no. 65;
N. Bonacasa, Ritratti greci e romani della Sicilia (Palermo 1964), p. 45, no. 52, pl. 24. 1—
J. Balty and J. Ch. Balty, Problèmes d’Iconographie Impériale en Sicilie, in AntCl 35 (1966) p. 537;
L. Fabbrini, Caligola: il ritratto dell’adolescenza e il ritratto dell’apoteosi, in RM 73—
U. Hiesinger, The Portraits of the Emperor Nero, in AJA 79 (1975) p. 115, pl. 20. 32;
S. Maggi, Il ritratto giovanile di Nerone. Un esempio a Mantova, in RdA 10 (1986) pp. 48, 50, n. 15, fig. 8;
J. M. Croisille, Néron dans la statuaire: le problème des identifications e des faux, in J. M. Croisille, R. Martin, and Y. Perrin, eds. Neronia V. Néron: histoire et légende. Actes du Ve Colloque international de la SIEN (Clermont-Ferrand et Saint-Étienne, 2—
E. R. Varner, Punishment after Death: Mutilation of Images and Corpse Abuse in Ancient Rome, in Mortality 6 (2001), p. 48,
here, 48, n. 24, 50, 114, fig. 43.
This fragmentary face belongs to a type 2 image of Nero with corona civica. The portrait may have been destroyed after Nero’s suicide, and its fragments stored or buried in the environs of the Forum at Syracuse, where it is likely to have been publicly displayed.
p.50 Two other marble portraits may owe their extremely fragmentary state to destruction carried out as a consequence of Nero’s damnatio. A type 2 portrait from Syracuse (cat. 2. 2; fig. 43)37 and a type 4 portrait from Vienne (cat. 2. 5; fig. 44)38 are both only partially preserved. The Syracuse fragment depicts the emperor with a corona civica and was found in the city’s Forum. Like the portrait from Cos, it may have originally been displayed in the public context of the Forum, and stored or buried there following the destruction of the image. The Vienne portrait was excavated at the city’s Odeum and may have been part of the building’s sculptural decoration. Its destruction should perhaps be associated with the events surrounding the revolt of Vindex in Gaul. Subsequently, the fragment was stored or buried near the Odeum. It has also been suggested that a fragmentary marble eagle discovered in an area of ancient refuse disposal at Exeter may be a remnant of an vandalized portrait of Nero as Jupiter.39 The scattered find-spots of the damaged likenesses suggests that their destruction was likely the result of spontaneous demonstrations against Nero’s memory. These must have been fairly immediate responses to the news of the emperor’s overthrow and death, and were intended to defame Nero’s character and reign, as well as to demonstrate support for Galba’s new regime. The surprising paucity of surviving damaged marble portraits, in comparison to the enormous number of portraits which were recarved or untouched, confirms that removal and reuse, rather than intentional mutilation, was the standard response to Nero’s damnatio and is consonant with the earlier evidence established by Caligula’s surviving marble and bronze images.40
Info: museum annotation.
© 2004. Description: E. R. Varner. Mutilation and Transformation (damnatio memoriae and Roman Imperial portraiture) // Monumenta Graeca and Romana, vol. X. Brill, Leiden-Boston, 2004. Pp. 50, 237, cat. no. 2. 3.