Monday, March 17, 2008

1st Century Roman portraits

Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek contains so many treasures from antiquity. When you walk from hall to hall it is hard to digest all you see. From Egypt, Greece, to Rome masterpiece after masterpiece are on display. I was particularly impressed by some heads in marble or bronze from the 1st century AD. They are so life like, that you nearly expect them to wake up and start talking to you. Like this beautiful Roman lady, found in Rome carved from solid marble. She is dated from the period AD 61-96. How do we know the age of this sculpture? Because of her hairstyle, typical of the Flavian dynasty.

Emperor Titus Flavius Domitianus (51-96 AD)

68 AD Emperor Nero was murdered, and civil war broke out after his death. The emperor Vespasian founded a new dynasty, the Flavian dynasty. The emperors Titus and Domitian succeeded him, and this small bronze statue is the latest ruler of this dynasty - Dometian.

Titus Flavius Domitianus became emperor in 81 AD and died after 15 years in 96 AD. Contemporary writers have described him a tyrant rivaling his predecessors Caligula and Nero. He may however have been better than his old reputation. Modern historians have claimed that his policies was a precursor to the peaceful century to come.

Heracles (Rome 1st century, bronze)

This pretty young man is Heracles, son of Zeus and the greatest of Greek heroes. A hero was a demi good, and centre for one of the largest cults in the Greek era.

The young hero used to have a lion skin in his right hand and an arrow and a bow in his raised left hand. Over his chest there are traces of a quiver strap.

This demi god is attributed with abilities as strength, courage and sexual ability. The latter was, in good Greek tradition, directed both towards females and other males.

Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus - called Caligula (12-41 AD)

Few emperors have such a reputation as Caligula. He was murdered after a short reign in a conspiracy involving his own bodyguard and the senate. He was only 29 years old.

He did not waste his time. During his four years reign from 37-41 contemporary sources gave him a reputation of cruelty, extravagance and sexual perversity, describing him as an insane tyrant. Whether this reputation is completely reliable is unknown.

This cuirass bust of the emperor, i.e. the emperor being dressed in armour is from Rome and made from solid marble.

Old Roman woman

This wonderful realistic marble bust of an old Roman woman was found in the Licinians grave in Rome. It is dated from the 1st century AD.

It is an extremely realistic portrait. She has some wrinkles around her mouth and a little double chin. She has a nodus on her forehead, a hairstyle popular 30 BC.

As a Roman woman she is dressed in a stole over her tunic.

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