Tiberius Claudius Nero (42 B.C.-37 A.D.) was born into the distinguished Claudian family. His father, after whom he was named, was married to Livia Drusilla, the future empress. The elder Tiberius fought against Octavian (later Emperor Augustus) in the Civil War of 40 B.C. and was forced into a brief exile in Greece. Upon his return he was coerced into divorcing Livia, then several months pregnant with Tiberius, so she could wed Octavian. The younger Tiberius was thus associated with the two most powerful families in Rome-- the genses Claudia and Julia-- although his accession to the helm of the Roman Empire was tumultuous and far from certain.
Tiberius’ early career was marked by several military victories. He regained the Roman standards from the Parthians, previously lost by Crassus in 20 B.C.; four years later he was appointed governor of Gaul and conquered new territory near the Alps. These martial successes were not matched at home, though, as he was forced to divorce his first wife, Vipsania Agrippina, and wed Augustus’ widowed daughter, Julia. This union also made him guardian to her two sons and Augustus’ heirs apparent, Gaius and Lucius. After a brief self-imposed exile and retirement from military and political affairs in 6 B.C., Tiberius returned to Rome with the understanding that he would shun public life. However, the premature deaths of Gaius and Lucius, forced Augustus to consider new succession plans, thus leading the Emperor to adopt Tiberius as his heir in 4 A.D. Upon Augustus’ death in 14 A.D., the Roman Senate bestowed on Tiberius the title emperor.
Contemporaneous accounts suggest that Tiberius never wanted to be emperor. According to Suetonius (Life of Tiberius, 68), “He strode along with his neck stiff and bent forward, usually with a stern countenance and for the most part in silence, never or very rarely conversing with his companions, and then speaking with great deliberation and with a kind of supple movement of his fingers. All these mannerism of his, which were disagreeable and signs of arrogance, were remarked by Augustus, who often tried to excuse them to the senate and people by declaring that they were natural failings, and not intentional.” Tiberius afforded the Senate great powers, although his relationship with the body was frayed, and for the most part Tiberius continued many of Augustus’ foreign and domestic polices. He ruled with much input from his sons and heirs, Drusus and Germanicus. Germanicus died in Antioch in 19 A.D. and Drusus was murdered in 23 A.D.
In his later years, Tiberius grew paranoid and feared for his life. Sejanus, the prefect of the Praetorian Guard, ran the day-to-day aspects of the empire on Tiberius’ behalf. It was later discovered that Sejanus may have had a role in Drusus’ murder; he also married Drusus’ widow, Livilla, without permission from Tiberius. Sejanus was sentenced to death and Tiberius believed that treasonous citizens were conspiring for his own murder. Under these pressures, Tiberius entered a self-imposed exile to Capri in 26 A.D. and never again returned to Rome. The public suspected that he fled Rome to engage in a life of debauchery. Suetonius (Tiberius, 43) noted, “On retiring to Capri he devised a pleasance for his secret orgies: teams of wantons of both sexes, selected as experts in deviant intercourse…copulated before him in triple unions to excite his flagging passions.” While this account might verge on the sensational, Roman citizens nonetheless observed Tiberius’ absence in state affairs. Tiberius appointed Caligula, Germanicus’ son, heir to the empire. He died at his seaside villa at Misenum in 37 A.D.
D.E.E. Kleiner (p. 124 in Roman Portraits) observes that Tiberius’ portraits are based closely on those of Augustus. While the practicalities of using the same court artists as his adoptive father are one reason for the strong resemblance of the two emperors, there is also a propagandistic function at work to visually link the two men. The eternal youth present in most extant portraits of Tiberius (he was 56 when he became emperor) is also employed to further this connection. Yet there is a noted departure in Tiberius’ portraits from Augustus’ austere classicism: the eyes become much bigger, thus giving his portraits an imbalance that prefigures a new era in Roman portraiture.
Portraits of Tiberius have traditionally been grouped into three distinct types: the so-called adoption type produced to commemorate his adoption by Augustus in 4 A.D.; the imperium maius type, created to celebrate the new powers conferred upon him by Augustus in 12 A.D., effectively giving him powers equal to his own; and lastly, one to memorialize his designation of Imperator in 14 A.D. While new iconographical studies have complicated this easy typology with up to six portrait groups (see p. 57 in J. Pollini, “A New Marble Head of Tiberius: Portrait Typology and Ideology,” Antike Kunst 48), Jucker (op. cit., p. 20) views the Pestalozzi Tiberius as so close to the archetype of the adoption type that the minor differences within the later grouping schema are rendered impractical.
The bust was fashioned for insertion into a sculpture or freestanding socle. His head is turned to his left, above a long neck. HIs features delicately rendered including large almond-shaped eyes beneath a shallow brow and a small mouth. His hair fashioned in comma-shaped locks high on his broad forehead. The Pestalozzi Tiberius is remarkably close to the archetype at the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek (see no. 129 in C.B. Rose, Dynastic Commemoration and Imperial Portraiture in the Julio-Claudian Period). The Copenhagen portrait, found in the Fayum but made in Rome and exported, was found alongside portraits of Augustus, Livia and a statue of Victory holding a bronze statue symbolizing the suicide of Cleopatra. The subject of the sculpture group refers to Augustus’ victory over Mark Antony, and Tiberius' inclusion here ensured continuation of the Julio-Claudian dynasty. While Augustus only adopted Tiberius in 4 A.D., it is thought that the adoption type was created in the 20s B.C. and was later widely distributed (see Kleiner, op. cit.).