A Roman marble portrait bust of Gaius Caesar

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Lot 236* W
A Roman marble portrait bust of Gaius Caesar

Sold for £ 374,500 (US$ 498,790) inc. premium

Antiquities

23 Oct 2013, 10:30 BST

London, New Bond Street

A Roman marble portrait bust of Gaius Caesar
Augustan, circa A.D. 1-4
Depicted with the head turned to his right, with finely carved wavy hair falling over the forehead, long sideburns and a short beard, with large eyes beneath a smooth straight browline, the full lips slightly parted, with 18th-19th Century Italian restorations, 18in (46cm) high, 25in (63.5cm) overall height, mounted on an 18th-19th Century socle

Footnotes

  • Provenance:
    American private collection.
    Michael Mitchell Collection, Los Angeles, 1990s.
    Los Angeles art market.

    Literature:
    Gaius Caesar (20 B.C.-A.D. 4) and his brother Lucius Caesar (17 B.C.-A.D. 2) were the sons of the Emperor Augustus' only child Julia and his close confidant Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa. With no sons of his own, the Emperor adopted them in 17 B.C. and they were intended as Augustus' successors. However both died young, predeceasing Augustus who died in A.D. 14.

    Gaius Caesar died aged twenty-three in A.D. 4 and during his short life Gaius and his younger brother 'played extremely important roles in Augustus' political and dynastic plans'. (J. Pollini, The Portraiture of Gaius and Lucius Caesar, New York, 1987, p. 2). Official images of Augustus's grandsons were produced from their childhood and 'these were deliberately calculated to depict the princes as miniature versions of their illustrious grandfather.' (D. Kleiner, Roman Sculpture, New Haven and London, 1992, p. 72.) For example, a marble portrait group of Gaius and Lucius with their grandfather the Emperor was set up in the Julian Basilica in Corinth and the intended resemblance is clear. As a result of this, there has been much discussion concerning the identification and iconography of Augustan and Julio-Claudian Imperial portraiture.

    Portraits of Gaius have been divided into five types and Type 5 of which this lot is an example, is the most controversial. Some portraits have been identified as an early type for Octavian/Augustus, with the beard explained as a 'beard of mourning' at the death of Caesar. However John Pollini has made a convincing case for this type representing Gaius Caesar and not his grandfather. J. Pollini, The Portraiture of Gaius and Lucius Caesar, New York, 1987, pp. 59ff.

    The closest examples to this lot are the head in Arles, Musée Lapidaire Païen, inv. 51.1.22 (op.cit. pl.31; cat. 30); and the head in Verona, Museo Archeologico, (op.cit. pl.32; cat. 31). Both heads demonstrate similar sideburns and hair, with the Verona head also depicted with a similar short beard. Pollini argues that the sideburns and beard are indicative of a military connection and an associaion with Ares/Mars. Both Germanicus and Drusus Minor, well-known for their military prowess, were depicted with beards and thus it is suggested that this portrait type was created to honour Gaius' military achievements. Pollini posits that this was possibly in the Arabian war of A.D. 1, or to commemorate Gaius' salutation as Imperator in A.D. 3 after the fall of Artagira in Armenia, where he suffered the wound which was to eventually kill him the following year. (op.cit. p. 72 ff.)
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A Roman marble portrait bust of Gaius Caesar
A Roman marble portrait bust of Gaius Caesar
A Roman marble portrait bust of Gaius Caesar
A Roman marble portrait bust of Gaius Caesar
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