• The William F. Reilly Collecti auction at Christies

    Sale 2273

    The William F. Reilly Collection

    14 October 2009, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 84

    A ROMAN MARBLE PORTRAIT HEAD OF THE EMPEROR ANTONINUS PIUS

    REIGN 138-161 A.D.

    Price Realised  

    A ROMAN MARBLE PORTRAIT HEAD OF THE EMPEROR ANTONINUS PIUS
    REIGN 138-161 A.D.
    Over-lifesized, depicted with a full beard and mustache, his head turned slightly to his left, his overhanging mustache divided in the center, exposing his filtrum and thin lips, with an aquiline nose, his heavy-lidded eyes articulated, with a prominent and creased brow, his hair combed forward with unruly curls thick above the ears and at the temples, a hooked lock centered on his forehead
    13½ in. (34.3 cm) high


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    Titus Aurelius Fulvius Boionius Antoninus was born 19 September 86 A.D. at Lanuvium, near Rome, to a consular family. Ancient sources (Julius Capitolinus, Scriptores Historiae Augustae) inform that he served as quaestor in A.D 112, praetor in 117, and consul in 120. Between 110 and 115 Antoninus married Annia Galeria Faustina, the daughter of M. Annius Verus. Under the Emperor Hadrian he was a consular administrator of Italy and later, between A.D. 130 and 135, he became the proconsul of Asia. In early 138 following the death of Hadrian's intended successor, Aelius Verus, the honor was subsequently bestowed on Antoninus. Hadrian requested that Antoninus adopt as his successors Marcus Annius Verus (the future Marcus Aurelius) and Lucius Verus, the son of Aelius.

    Following Hadrian's death later that year, the new Emperor worked toward the deification of his adoptive father. His devotion to Hadrian's memory inspired the Senate to bestow upon Antoninus the name "Pius." His reign was one of relative peace and prosperity. Unlike his immediate predecessors who traveled the Empire, Antoninus spent most of his reign in Rome, in part to avoid burdening the provinces with the expenses of housing an emperor and his associates. His civic policies centralized the government, perhaps an attempt to restore Rome and Italy to its superior position over the provinces. He was a model emperor who provided the Empire with a period of fortune, religious piety, and security, perhaps unmatched in imperial annals. Following his death in A.D. 161 his adoptive sons erected a red granite column in his honor in the Campus Martius. Its white marble base, now in the Vatican Museums, depicts the apotheosis of the Emperor and Faustina (see R.D. Weigel, "Antoninus Pius" in De Imperatoribus Romanis).

    Since Antoninus Pius became Emperor at the age of 52, all of his portrait types depict him as a man of middle age. His portraits follow closely on those of Hadrian, and like his predecessor, he has a thick head of curly hair, a mustache and a full neat beard. Julius Capitolinus (Scriptores Historiae Augusta, 4.4-9) informs that he was strikingly handsome and was aristocratic in countenance. Wegner (Die Herrscherbildnisse in antoninischer Zeit [Das römische Herrscherbild II, 4]) extensively studied the surviving portraits (now more than 140 examples) and divided them into three basic types. The present example most closely resembles the Vatican Sala a Croce Greca 595 Type, named for a portrait from Ostia now in the Vatican Museums (Kleiner, Roman Sculpture, fig. 232). The type is thought to have been developed to celebrate the Emperor's decennalia (10 year reign anniversary).

    Provenance

    with McAlpine Fine Art, London, 1994.
    American Private Collection; Sotheby's, New York, 12 June 2003, lot 54.