A Roman marble portrait head of the Emperor Septimius Severus
Lot 67* W
A Roman marble portrait head of the Emperor Septimius Severus
Sold for £206,500 (US$ 323,131) inc. premium

Lot Details
A Roman marble portrait head of the Emperor Septimius Severus A Roman marble portrait head of the Emperor Septimius Severus
A Roman marble portrait head of the Emperor Septimius Severus
Circa 194 A.D.
Slightly over-lifesized, depicted with his head turned to his right, his thick curling hair and beard with drilled detail, the beard characteristically full and long with ringlets at the chin and a thick moustache at the upper lip, his eyebrows incised above large eyes with articulated pupils gazing upward, the strong neck designed to be set into a composite statue, 16¼in (41.3cm) high, mounted

Footnotes

  • Provenance:
    American private collection, California.
    Christie's New York, 11 December 2003, lot 232.
    European private collection, acquired in the 1980s.

    Literature:
    Lucius Septimius Severus (reigned 193-211 A.D.) was born in Leptis Magna, North Africa (present-day Libya), and rose to prominence under the emperors Marcus Aurelius and Commodus. After the assassination of the emperor Commodus in A.D. 192, there was a power struggle for the Imperial purple. Severus was proclaimed emperor by his legions in A.D. 193 and eventually secured full control of the Empire.

    Severus and his second wife Julia Domna (who was herself born outside Rome, in the Roman province of Syria) were proponents of eastern cults, and had an interest in philosophy, astrology and mysticism. He showed great loyalty to the land of his birth and he not only carried-out large scale renovations to his home-town of Leptis Magna but also founded new Roman colonies in North Africa.

    According to Diana Kleiner, in order to strengthen his dynastic ambitions, Severus modelled his portraiture style on that of the Antonines. In 196 A.D. he had himself retroactively adopted into the Antonine family and also divinized Commodus: D. Kleiner, Roman Sculpture, New Haven & London, 1992, p. 318.

    Septimius Severus' portrait types have been divided by scholars into four main groups. This lot can be identified as an example of the earliest and rarest type, the 'Accession type' (Fittschen's Type I/McCann's Type II), produced between A.D. 193 and 196 during his struggle for the empire. For discussion of the type and the emphasising of Antonine features in such portraits see K. Fittschen, Katalog der römischen Porträts in den Capitolischen Museen und den anderen kommunalen Sammlungen der Stadt Rom, Mainz, 1985, vol. I, pp.94-95, no.82 and chapter 4 in A.M. McCann, 'The Portraits of Septimius (A.D. 193-211)', Memoirs of the American Academy in Rome, 1968.
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