Portrait of Augustus
Unknown artist, Roman
Portrait of Augustus, early 1st century
Marble (from Paros)
24.3 x 20.3 x 17.5 cm (9 5/8 x 8 x 6 7/8 inches)
Museum Appropriation Fund 26.160
Augustus was remarkably handsome and of very graceful gait even as an old man… Augustus’s eyes were clear and bright, and he liked to believe that they shone with a sort of divine radiance: it gave him profound pleasure if anyone at whom he glanced keenly dropped his head as though dazzled by looking into the sun. Suetonius, Augustus, 79. (69–140 CE)
Although likely sculpted towards the end of Emperor Augustus’s life, this portrait depicts him as a handsome and solemn youth. Then, as now, images of rulers could be manipulated to serve propagandistic purposes. Depending on the message that Augustus wished to convey, he was variously represented as priest, military commander, or statesman. Here, the top and back of the head are unfinished, suggesting that the head was originally covered, perhaps by the fold of a toga. Depictions of Augustus with his head covered refer to his role as chief priest (pontifex maximus) of the Roman state religion.
Contributions byRidgway, Brunilde Sismondo
Publisher & DateMuseum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, 1972
TypeMonographs and CollectionsRethinking the RomansNew Views of Ancient Sculpture
Edited BySingsen, Judith A., ed.
Publisher & DateMuseum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design., 2001
TypeJournalsA Handbook of the Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design
Edited ByWoodward, Carla M., and Franklin W. Robinson, eds.
Publisher & DateMuseum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, 1988
TypeMonographs and Collections