• The William F. Reilly Collecti auction at Christies

    Sale 2273

    The William F. Reilly Collection

    14 October 2009, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 83

    A ROMAN MARBLE PORTRAIT HEAD OF THE YOUTHFUL MARCUS AURELIUS

    CIRCA 138 A.D.

    Price Realised  

    Estimate

    A ROMAN MARBLE PORTRAIT HEAD OF THE YOUTHFUL MARCUS AURELIUS
    CIRCA 138 A.D.
    The future emperor depicted with a full head of curls, the individual locks detailed, some by incision alternating with deeply drilled thin channels, a distinctive lock hanging at the center of the forehead, his characteristic convex oval eyes with heavy upper lids, the pupils and irises indicated, the brows gently arching, the nose slender, the small mouth with the lips pressed together, the chin rounded
    13 in. (33 cm.) high


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    Marcus Annius Verus (the future Emperor Marcus Aurelius, 161-180 A.D.) was a grandson of the Emperor Hadrian's Spanish friend Annius Verus and nephew by marriage of Hadrian's eventual successor Antoninus Pius. Hadrian fondly called him Verissimus (the "truest"). In 136 A.D. Marcus was betrothed to one of the daughters of Aelius Caesar, Hadrian's first choice as successor. Following Aelius' untimely death, Hadrian adopted Antoninus and ordered that he in turn adopt Marcus, together with Aelius' son Lucius.

    This exquisite portrait of the young Marcus likely commemorated his adoption by Antoninus Pius in 138 A.D., when he was not yet seventeen years of age. At least twenty-five versions of this portrait type are known; it is usually referred to as the Capitoline Museum Galleria 28 type after one of the best preserved examples in Rome (see frontispiece and pl. 234 in Kleiner, Roman Sculpture). His youthful portrait is also found on coins minted during the reign of his adoptive father (see the example illustrated above from the British Museum.)

    This portrait was likely once in the collection of Charles Eliot Norton, an American scholar who was devoted to the study of literature and art. Norton graduated from Harvard in 1846 and subsequently traveled extensively in Europe where he developed his academic passions. After a number of literary endeavors Norton was appointed professor of the history of art at Harvard, a position he held until 1898. In addition to being a prolific writer, Norton was the first president of the Archaeological Institute of America.

    Provenance

    Susan Norton (1902-1989), thought to be inherited from her grandfather Charles Eliot Norton (1827-1908), Cambridge; then bequeathed to, Historic New England.
    The Property of an Historical Organization, from an Estate of a Descendant of Charles Eliot Norton; Christie's, London, 12 December 1990, lot 126.
    with Fortuna Fine Arts, New York, 1991.