A Roman marble male portrait bust

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Lot 146*
A Roman marble male portrait bust

Sold for £ 100,000 (US$ 124,340) inc. premium
A Roman marble male portrait bust
Reign of Caracalla, circa 211-217 A.D.
Depicted life-sized, the head turned slightly to the right, the face framed with short curly hair and beard with a neat bushy moustache, the eyebrows engraved above upward-gazing articulated eyes, 36cm high

Footnotes

  • Provenance:
    Dr William Redel (1917-2012) collection, USA, acquired prior to 1967; and thence by descent to the present owner.

    The strong countenance and short, curly, clumpy hair is reminiscent of certain portrait types of Septimius Severus, and of the portraiture of his son and heir, Caracalla. This change in hairstyles from the Antonine period has been attributed to Septimius's and Caracalla's North African heritage, and the former's military background. The Roman elite would often fashion private, personal portraits after the prevailing style of the reigning dynasties, and the present lot displays a deliberate imitation of the hair, beard and moustache sported by the ruling family of the early 3rd century A.D. The rendering of the hair and beard, which lacks the schematic drill work typical of portraits from the time of Septimius Severus, points to an execution date during the reign of Caracalla. For a portrait of Caracalla with similar treatment of the hair and beard, see K. Fittschen and P. Zanker, Katalog der Römischen Porträts in den Capitolinischen Museen und der anderen kommunalen Sammlungen der Stadt Rom I: Kaiser- und Prinzenbildnissem, Mainz, 1985, pls. 110-114, app. 71-77.

    However, unlike portraits of the notorious Caracalla, who murdered his younger brother Geta to secure sole supremacy, and whose likenesses are marked by their scowling expression and an accentuated, aggressive twist of the head, this portrait exudes a calm, confident demeanour. For two portraits which exhibit similar benign countenances, see K. Rhomiopoulou, ΕΛΛΗΝΟΡΩΜΑΪ́ΚΑ ΓΛΥΠΤΑ, ΤΟΥ ΕΘΝΙΚΟΥ ΑΡΧΑΙΟΛΟΓΙΚΟΥ ΜΟΥΣΕΙΟΥ [= Greco-Roman Sculpture of the National Archaeological Museum], Athens, 1997, p.109, cat.111 and p.111, cat.114. Both of these portraits were found in Greece, and the present lot is carved from a fine-grained, Greek marble, perhaps suggesting a similar Greek provenance. The present lot exemplifies the desire of the Roman elite to both align themselves with the ruling classes by close imitation of their public image, yet retain an individualistic character within their portraiture.
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