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Eighteenth century imitation head of a Roman portrait bust set on an antique bust

110-150 AD

Medium-grained Greek marble, the head in Pentelic marble

Height: 61cm
Height (head from break): 27cm
Height (bust without pedestal and base): 26cm

Museum number: M775

Vermeule catalogue number: Vermeule 415help-vermeule-catalogue-number

On display: Dome Area
All spaces are in No. 13 Lincoln's Inn Fields unless identified as in No. 12, Soane's first house. For tours https://www.soane.org/your-visit

Curatorial note

This head, which depicts a beardless, lean man with bony cheeks and protruding mouth, hair lying close to the head and details indicated only by the strokes is considered by Poulsen an "imitation of a portrait of Trajan's age." The "illegible remains of a Latin inscription" on the bust, which Adolf Michaelis noted in his account of the Museum, read LUCIUS ANTONIUS and were added by the restorer in keeping with the traditions of Neo-classical "attribution". The shape of the antique bust suits a Trajanic to early Antonine dating (c.110-150 AD)1.

Many of the great Renaissance collections contain re-made busts of Roman "Emperors" and Imperial citizens - antique busts with later heads superimposed on them, in addition to the more usual antique head on a modern bust or the combination of two unrelated antique elements. For example, in the anteroom passage of the Salo di Bona in the Palazzo Pitti, Florence, there is a small bust (no. 900) with a very similar "Julius Caesar" type head set on a second century Imperial draped bust2.

1 Compare Gross, Bildnisse Traians, pls. 15, 24; Wegner, Herrscherbildnisse, pl. 21.
2 On the "Julius Caesar" portraits of this type, see M.Milkovich, Roman Portraits, Worcester Art Museum, Worcester (Mass.), 1961, p. 14, no. 3; also Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, 108, no. 2, 1964, pp. 100, 113, 118.

Provenance help-art-provenance

Purchased by Soane at Lord Mendip's Sale, Christie's, 18 May 1802, Lot. 58, Bust of L: Antonius, with Inscription on the Breast, in antient Roman Characters, 42 guineas [in the copy of the Catalogue in the Bodleian Library Lot 58 is marked as sold to Soane for a price of £4.14.6].


F. Poulsen, Greek and Roman Portraits in English Country Houses, trans. G. C.Richards, Oxford, 1923, p. 26.
Michaelis, p. 476, no. 16.

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