Portrait of a Julio-Claudian Prince (probably Drusus Minor)
Unknown artist, Roman
Portrait of a Julio-Claudian Prince (probably Drusus Minor), early 1st century CE
36.2 x 22.4 x 24.1 cm (14 1/4 x 8 13/16 x 9 1/2 inches)
Gift of Mrs. Gustav Radeke 22.211
Members of the emperor Augustus’s family often had themselves portrayed bearing a striking resemblance to Augustus (reigned 27 BCE –CE 14) in order to reinforce their leading position in Roman society. In fact, most of the men in the Julio-Claudian family were portrayed so similarly that scholars today continue to have difficulty determining the identities of the male portraits, as is the case with this one.
The treatment of the base of the neck indicates that the head was meant for insertion into a stock bust or body, a common practice for honorary and funerary portraits in Roman times. The rough and unfinished appearance of the ears and top of the head and the ridge above the bottom row of curls on the back suggest that this head was once adorned with a metal wreath.(April 6, 2001 – January 2, 2009)
In order to reinforce their leading position in Roman society, members of the imperial family often had themselves portrayed as looking very much like Augustus (reigned 27 BC – AD 14). In fact, most of Julio-Claudian men were portrayed as looking so much alike that scholars have had difficulty identifying them with certainty. While the profile of the RISD portrait recalls Drusus the Younger (died AD 23, son of the emperor Tiberius), the hairstyle suggests the young Germanicus (15 BC – AD 19, nephew of Tiberius).
The treatment of the base of the neck indicates that the head was meant for insertion into a stock bust or body, a common practice for portraits in Roman times. The ridge above the bottom row of locks on the back of the head perhaps was an indentation to support a wreath. The top of the head is summarily carved, and drill marks around the ears appear rough, lending credence to the proposed presence of a wreath, which would have hidden these unfinished effects.
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