The present marble, a portrait of the debauched general who served as Emperor from January 2 - September 15, 69 A.D., is based on a second century portrait excavated in Rome, later exhibited in Venice in 1523 and now in the collection of the Uffizi Gallery.
According to Wendy Stedman Sheard in her catalogue entry for a drawing of this subject attributed to Tintoretto: "It [the Roman portrait] deserves to be numbered among the specific antique works known to the sixteenth century that helped to inspire the birth of Baroque style." Cf. W.S. Sheard, Antiquity in the Renaissance, Smith College Museum of Art, Northampton, Ma., April 6-June 6, 1978, cat. no. 76.
In 1675, Massimiliano Soldani-Benzi modeled a bronze portrait of the emperor which is now in the Lichtenstein Collection. Cf. K. Lankheit, Florentinische Barockplastik, Munich, 1962, cat. no. 143, illus. A bronze head of Vitellius by an unidentified Italian sculptor circa 1600 also based on the Uffizi portrait is noted in L. Planiscig, Die Bronzeplastiken, Vienna, 1924, cat. no. 29, illus.