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Roman bust of a man, perhaps the elderly Emperor Augustus

In the few years after 8 BC

Parian marble

Height: 39cm
Height (excluding base and plaster joint): 30cm
Height (head to bottom of chin): 17cm

Museum number: M302

Vermeule catalogue number: Vermeule 408help-vermeule-catalogue-number

Not on display

Curatorial note

The iconographic value of this head has been seriously impaired by the reworking of the surface - a fact which has heightened the expression conveyed by the lines and furrows of the face. The shape of the head, arrangement of the hair and surface details indicate a portrait of the first Emperor, Augustus (27 BC-14 AD) as he appeared in later life. Compare this bust with the head in the Museo Capitolino1 which is said to represent Augustus in middle life, and the bust in the Ny Carlsberg Glyptothek, Copenhagen2, dated about 8 BC, both of which are shortly prior to the period from which the Soane portrait is drawn. The 'mouth slightly drawn in pain', and the 'older, more marked and also more sickly features' observed by Poulsen in the Copenhagen bust are more fully expressed in this small head, which nevertheless is modelled in the idealizing way as the celebrated Prima Porta statue of Augustus in the Vatican Museum.3

The Copenhagen heads (and other portraits) of Augustus are discussed in F. Poulsen, Les portraits romains, I, République et Dynastie Julienne, Copenhagen, 1962 and 1974, pp.63-65, nos.32-33; see also, B.M. Felletti Maj, Museo Nazionale Romano: I ritratti, Rome, 1953, pp.60-61, no.97 (the Augustus as Pontiff from the Via Labicana); and C. Vermeule, Roman Imperial Art in Greece and Asia Minor, Cambridge (Mass.), 1968, pp.173, 380-382, list of 31 portraits from the Greek imperial world.

The Soane Augustus is a private portrait, probably for a family chapel, and gives every appearance of having been carved in the Hellenistic or Greek (imperial) East.

1 H.S. Jones (ed.), The British School at Rome, Catalogue of ancient sculptures preserved in the municipal collections of Rome: The sculptures of the Museo Capitolino, 2 vols, Oxford, 1912, p. 102, no. 26, pl. 28; Johann Jakob Bernoulli, Die römische Ikonographie, 4 volumes, 1882-1891, vol. II, no.2, fig.1.
2 Frederick Poulsen, Catalogue of ancient sculpture in the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen, 1951, no. 610, pl. XXXXIX; Copenhagen 611 (inv. 746) belongs to the same replica series as the Soane bust (Poulsen, Les Portrait Romains I. Republique et Dynastie Julienne, Copenhagen 1962, 610: pl. XLVII - XLIX, no. 32: 611: pl. L - LI, no. 33); Hekler, Greek and Roman Portraits, pl. 166.
3 W. Amelung, Die Skulpturen des Vaticanischen Museums, Berlin, 1903-08, Volume 1 (1903), p. 19ff., pl. II; Hekler, op.cit., pl. 170f. The Augustus of Prima Porta was excavated at the Villa of Augustus' wife, Livia, at Prima Porta near Rome.

Provenance help-art-provenance



Dietrich Boschung, Die Bildnisse des Augustus, Das römische Herrscherbild, Part I, vol. 2, 1993, cat. no. 61, pl. 66 and 226,2.
Klaus Fittschen/Paul Zanker, Katalog der römischen Porträts in den Capitolinischen Museen und den anderen kommunalen Sammlungen der Stadt Rom, Band I: Kaiser und Prinzenbildnisse, Mainz 1985, Augustus/Octavian, pp. 1-10, no. 1-9.

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