3rd century CE
Yale University Art Gallery: Leonard C. Hanna, Jr., B.A. 1913, Fund; 1999.59.1
This portrait from the third century CE closely resembles representations of the emperor Gallienus (253–268 CE) (see below). During the civil wars of the third century CE, emperors had presented themselves as severe military men with rough beards and short, stippled hair. Gallienus, however, adopted a distinctive portrait style, stylistically conscious of the sternness of his predecessors, but influenced by his love of Greek culture and admiration for the Julio-Claudian era: his hair is more defined, fuller and brushed forward, and his beard grows down his neck. His gaze is turned upwards, similar to the iconic images Alexander the Great and the broad cranium connects him to the likenesses of Julio-Claudian rulers. This combination was intended to present Gallienus as an enlightened leader who was capable of restoring order and prosperity.
Although the similarities of this work to Gallienus’ portraits are numerous, the carving of an imperial portrait would have been of a much higher quality than seen in this bust. Hence, it is more likely that this portrait is of a wealthy private citizen than of the emperor himself. As such, it exemplifies the persistent influence and emulation of imperial fashion in the Roman world that occurred throughout the imperial period.
This text was prepared by Mellons Special Projects Curatorial Intern Kasia Vincunas.
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