Portrait of Agrippina the Younger
Unknown artist, Roman
Portrait of Agrippina the Younger, ca. 40 CE
Marble (from Paros) head, and 18th-century colored marble bust
Height: 81.6 cm (32 1/8 inches)
Anonymous gift 56.097
Agrippina (15–59 CE), the subject of this portrait, was related to four different Roman emperors: she was granddaughter to Augustus, sister to Caligula, mother to Nero, and niece and later wife to Claudius. It is therefore not surprising that many portraits of her survive. They invariably depict her with a broad forehead, a square jaw, large eyes, thin lips, and a sharp chin, all features shared by many members of e imperial family.
Ancient pieces were sometimes combined with other sculptural elements to create “new” composite sculptures. This ancient portrait head was inserted into a bust composed of different-colored marble in the 18th century.(April 23 –June 30, 1970)(April 6, 2001 – January 2, 2009)
Agrippina the Younger (AD 15 - 59) was a powerful woman: the sister, wife, and mother to three different emperors. According to ancient authors, Agrippina’s brother Caligula sent her into exile for involvement in a conspiracy in AD 39. Her uncle Claudius recalled her from banishment and married her in AD 49. Agrippina is said to have poisoned Claudius so that her son Nero might become emperor. The empress ruled in Nero’s name while he was young, but he eventually turned against her, ordering assassins to murder her. While Agrippina is said to have written an autobiography, it has not survived. Her portraits provide the only remaining clues as to how she wished to be represented during her lifetime. These depict her with a slightly protruding upper lip and chin that are reminiscent of Caligula’s portraits. Of the RISD version, only the head is ancient.
Edited ByWoolsey, Ann, ed.
Publisher & DateMuseum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, 2008
TypeMonographs and CollectionsClassical Sculpture
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