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HOME : Classical Antiquities : Classical Bronzes : Bronze Head of Emperor Antoninus Pius with Inlaid Silver Eyes
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Bronze Head of Emperor Antoninus Pius with Inlaid Silver Eyes - AM.0360
Origin: Mediterranean
Circa: 2 nd Century AD
Dimensions: 3" (7.6cm) high x 2.25" (5.7cm) wide
Collection: Classical
Medium: Bronze, Silver

Location: Great Britain
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Antoninus Pius was the successor of the Emperor Hadrian and reigned between 138-161 A.D. The epithet ‘Pius’ was apparently conferred on him after he persuaded the Senate to deify Hadrian, his adoptive father. During the period of his rule the Empire was unusually peaceful and he won great popularity by remaining in Rome rather than constantly touring the provinces as his predecessors had done. He completed many of the building projects initiated by Hadrian, including the latter’s mausoleum, but was generally cautious when spending public funds. His adoptive son and successor Marcus Aurelius gave high praise for his style of rule in the ‘Meditations’: ‘Do all things as a disciple of Antoninus. Think of his constancy in every act rationally undertaken, his invaluable equability, his piety, his serenity of countenance, his sweetness of disposition, his contempt for the bubble of fame and his zeal for getting a true grasp of affairs.’

This bronze head is a fragment of a larger work and depicts Antoninus as a mature bearded man. The eyes have been inlaid with silver suggesting that this was a prestigious commission. The strands of hair have been carefully delineated on both the front and the reverse. The expression is one of serious contemplation which accords with the character of Antoninus as indicated by the historical records. Bronze portraits are extremely rare as the metal was often melted down and reused. This is a remarkable survival which should interest all those fascinated by the history of the Empire. (AM) - (AM.0360)


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