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A ROMAN MARBLE PORTRAIT HEAD OF A BOY
PROPERTY FROM A NORTH AMERICAN PRIVATE COLLECTION
A ROMAN MARBLE PORTRAIT HEAD OF A BOY

SEVERAN PERIOD, CIRCA FIRST QUARTER OF THE 3RD CENTURY A.D.

Details
A ROMAN MARBLE PORTRAIT HEAD OF A BOY
SEVERAN PERIOD, CIRCA FIRST QUARTER OF THE 3RD CENTURY A.D.
7 ½ in. (19 cm.) high
Provenance
Private Collection, Europe.
with Ancient Art International, Middleboro, MA.
Acquired by the current owner from the above, 1999.

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Lot Essay

This portrait head closely resembles one depicting the Emperor Varius Avitus Bassianus, now-known as Elagabulus, in the NY Carlsberg Glyptotek (see F. Johansen, Roman Portraits III, p. 42, no. 12). While the portrait in Copenhagen has fleshier cheeks and jowls than the current example, the lips and hairline bear a considerable similarity, indicating that if not the emperor himself, this portrait likely came from the same time period. Elagabalus (reign 218-222 A.D.) was perhaps the most colorful emperor of the Severan dynasty. He arrived at the throne via the machinations of his maternal aunt, Julia Maesa, at the age of 18. Immediately after his ascendance he replaced Jupiter, the traditional head of the Roman pantheon, with a sun god named Elagabulus, of whom he had formerly been a high priest. His personal life was also tinged with scandal as he took a Vestal virgin (sworn to celibacy by Roman law and tradition) as his second wife, claiming they would produce "god-like" offspring. Public outcry forced him to divorce her, only to be reunited within a year. Additionally, he also seemed to sexually favor men, and referred to his Greek charioteer, Hiercoles, as his husband. His behavior alienated the traditional Roman bastions of influence, such as the Senate and Praetorian guard, and ultimately led to his assassination by members of the latter in 222 A.D.

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