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A ROMAN MARBLE PORTRAIT HEAD OF THE EMPEROR COMMODUS
PROPERTY ACQUIRED BY MARTIN ARMSTRONG FOR PRINCETON ECONOMICS
A ROMAN MARBLE PORTRAIT HEAD OF THE EMPEROR COMMODUS

CIRCA LATE 2ND CENTURY A.D.

Details
A ROMAN MARBLE PORTRAIT HEAD OF THE EMPEROR COMMODUS
CIRCA LATE 2ND CENTURY A.D.
Over-lifesized, his elongated oval face with broad flat cheeks, a small mouth and almond-shaped half-closed eyes, with heavy lids, the pupils articulated, the arched brows hatched, with a thin moustache connecting to a full wavy beard, his hair with deeply drilled curls, crowned with a thick oak wreath, the top and back summarily carved
14 in. (35.7 cm.) high
Provenance
A Private Collection; Sotheby's, New York, 9 December 1981, lot 242.
Private Collection, U.S.
Anonymous sale; Sotheby's, New York, 17 December 1992, lot 145.

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Lot Essay

Despite his death by his mutinous followers, Commodus (reign 180-192 A.D.) was celebrated post-mortem and received divine honors from his successor Septimius Severus. Thus, many statues of Commodus were made during Severus' rule (193-211), based on those created in Rome during the last five years of Commodus' life. Many of these were sculpted in Greece and Asia Minor, where it was customary to place Imperial portraits in the pediments of temples, as well as at gates or shrines.

These portraits rendered the last Antonine emperor as a mature figure with a beard, appearing in a style popularized by his father Marcus Aurelius and his "adopted brother" Severus, who linked the Severan family with Commodus' Antonine lineage.
This portrait of Commodus wears an oak crown, a symbol presented by the Senate to the Emperor as "Savior of his country." However, ironically, this gesture could not be further from the truth, as the Senate dishonored him with the label damnatio memoriae as someone who disgraced the Roman empire and should not be commemorated. For a similar example of the Emperor with an oak wreath, see no. 154, pp. 288-290 in Vermeule, Roman Imperial Art in Greece and Asia Minor. For the symbolism of oak wreaths, see pp. 144 and 149 in Mattingly, Roman Coins from the Earliest Times to the Fall of the Western Empire.

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