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A ROMAN ONYX CAMEO PORTRAIT OF CALIGULA
A ROMAN ONYX CAMEO PORTRAIT OF CALIGULA

CIRCA 37-41 A.D.

Details
A ROMAN ONYX CAMEO PORTRAIT OF CALIGULA
Circa 37-41 A.D.
The idealized portrait sensitively sculpted, the emperor in profile to the left, with a broad forehead capped with typical Julio-Claudian short curly locks but with a noticeable and characteristic hollow at the temple, the face with a deep-set eye, slender nose, characteristic protruding upper lip, and narrow chin; mounted in a modern gold finger ring
1 1/16 in. (2.7 cm) long
Provenance
Keith Partinson, Kingston-on-Hull, England, 1930s

Lot Essay

Gaius Julius Caesar Germanicus, nicknamed Caligula or "little boots" by the troops of his father Germanicus, became Emperor of Rome in A.D. 37. The young Caligula enjoyed widespread popularity for a brief period at the beginning of his reign, but soon his behavior became increasingly autocratic and megalomaniacal. Following his assassination on January 24th in A.D. 41, the Senate passed official sanctions against his memory (damnatio memoriae) and ordered the destruction of his public images. As a result, only very few of his portraits survive.

For a recent discussion of the portraiture of Caligula see pp. 96-125 in Varner, ed., From Caligula to Constantine, Tyranny & Transformation in Roman Portraiture. For a related cameo portrait of the emperor, slightly re-worked, see no. 296 in Vollenweider, Deliciae Leonis, Antike geschnittene Steine und Ringe aus einer Privatsammlung.
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