Height 32 cm (without the support). Inv. Nos. bronze. 829 / Chab. 3119.Paris, National Library, Cabinet of Medallions
Height 32 cm (without the support).
Paris, National Library, Cabinet of Medallions
On ignore la provenance de ce curieux buste, qui fait partie du Cabinet depuis un temps immémorial. L’attribution n’est pas certaine.
Haut., 320 mill.
Bibl. — Du Mersan, Hist. du Càb. des Médailles, p. 12; Chabouillet, Catalogue, n° 3119; J. Bernoulli, Römische Ikonographie, Ire partie, p.160, n° 34. (Voy. aussi pp. 165, 172 et 181; dans ces passages, ce dernier auteur voit dans notre buste une reproduction, probablement moderne, de la tête de César, en basalte, autrefois conservée dans la Bibliothèque de Saint-Cloud, et détruite lors de l’incendie de 1870; mais, dans la notice concernant les portraits de M. Brutus (p. 193), M. Bernoulli dit au contraire que le buste en bronze du Cabinet des Médailles est une réplique de la tête de César du CampoSanto de Pise). — On ignore la provenance de ce monument qui faisait déjà partie de la Collection royale, à la fin du siècle dernier.
p.143 No. 50. [B. 34]. Cabinet des Médailles, Bibliothèque Nationale, No. 829, of the catalogue of Babelon and Blanchette. A life-size head of almost black bronze, perhaps slightly below life-size. A very interesting and a very p.144 remarkable head. Some iconographic writers cast doubts on its antiquity. I am impressed with its nearness to Caesar’s time, by the similarity of its features and shape of head to a group of the best types known, combined with a singular expression of fierce intellectual tension that at once makes one think: how like that Caesar must have looked at the battle with the Nervii, when his small army was unexpectedly attacked on all sides and almost overwhelmed by the bold Belgians, and where, bareheaded and without armour, he rushed among his men to inspire and direct them. It is a fierce face — anxious, intellectual, resolute. It seems to me that it ought not to be mistaken for any other than Julius Caesar. M. Babelon, conservator of the Cabinet of Medallions, kindly had the bust taken down for me from a high shelf to which it had been retired. I found it labelled «Brutus or Caesar». A singular mistake, as it does not at all resemble Brutus’s face. One feels that it is the work of some sculptor of that far time when Caesar’s features were preserved in every variety of similitude among the Romans; when his career as a warrior in Gaul was the most popular conception of him. Whether this particular metal is of his p.145 time or not, the whole spirit of it is instinct with fighting men’s conceptions of a fighting leader.
The season I first saw this bronze I could obtain no permission from the director to have a cast made from it, and regretted that I should have only a copy of my own profile sketch, shown in the vignette, Fig. 37. Either photographs or sketches from very dark bronzes are unsatisfactory. A photograph from a plaster cast only will give the true expression of the bust.
Though I am impressed with the life-likeness of this bust as a dramatic expression of one phase of Caesar’s life, it would not be fair to the original to have it in any public place, alone, as a characteristic portraiture of him; but it may well form one of a collection.
Bernoulli alludes to it as a possible copy of the destroyed St. Cloud basalt bust (No. 45), or of the Pisa bust. It seems to me to differ radically from both: to be absolutely an original and unique work. He also remarks, «It is not to be comprehended how it has come out in modern times». I do not believe it has come out in modern times. M. Babelon is ignorant of its origin further than that it was a part of the French royal collection at the close of the seventeenth century.
In a visit to Paris after the above was written I succeeded, by appeal to M. Roujon, Minister of Public Instruction in France, to have a request issued to M. Babelon that I might have a plaster copy of this bronze; and M. Eugene Arrondelle, the venerable chief moulder of the Louvre Museum, was authorized to make it. Since returning to the p.146 United States I have received from the latter duplicate plaster copies of this bust. I am surprised to find the change of expression that appears from the black bronze to the white plaster. It in no way changes my opinion of its high value, but it does modify slightly the impression of a «fierce face», and shows that that exaggerated expression was partly due to the blackness of the surface, and not all inherent in the modeller’s work. On my invitation M. Solomon Reinach went to see the casts in white, and said to me that he is certain that it was made for Julius Caesar, but not that it is an antique bronze. Antique or not, as a casting, it bears on its face the evidence of a forceful portraiture of Caesar; and whether a copy of an antique, or an idealized composition from many antiques, or itself of Caesar’s far-away time, we shall probably forever be in the dark. The first plate opposite this number is a front view from a photograph of the plaster cast, the last one is a profile of the same, and the vignette, Fig. 37, is from my original profile sketch.
Bernoulli J. J. Römische Ikonographie. Tl. 1. Die Bildnisse berühmter Römer mit Ausschluß der Kaiser. Stuttgart, 1882. S. 160, № 34.
Babelon E., Blanchet J.-A. Catalogue des Bronzes Antiques de la Bibliothèque nationale. Paris, 1895. P. 361, № 829, fig. 829.
Scott F. J. The Portraitures of Julius Caesar. New York, 1903. P. 143—