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HOME : Classical Antiquities : Marble Sculptures : Marble head of the emperor Domitian
Marble head of the emperor Domitian - AM.0236
Origin: Mediterranean
Circa: 1 st Century AD
Dimensions: 10" (25.4cm) high x 6.2" (15.7cm) wide
Collection: Imperial Roman Antiquities
Medium: Marble

Additional Information: Presently in Hong-Kong

Art Logic—Private German Collection, 2007

Location: Great Britain

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Domitian was emperor of the Roman Empire during the years 81 to 96 AD. He was the younger brother of Titus and son of Vespasian, his two predecessors on the throne, and the last member of the Flavian dynasty. During his 15-year reign, his government exhibited totalitarian characteristics which put him at sharp odds with the senate, whose powers he drastically curtailed. Domitian strengthened the economy by revaluing the Roman coinage, expanded the border defenses of the empire and initiated a massive building program to restore the damaged city of Rome. Significant wars were fought in Britain and in Dacia. Religious, military and cultural propaganda fostered a cult of personality, and by nominating himself perpetual censor, he sought to control public and private morals. Contemporary historians, including the biographer Suetonius, being mostly scions of the senatorial order, have traditionally regarded Domitian as tyrannical and unjust, often comparing Domitian to the notoriously corrupt Emperor Nero. More recently his reputation has been undergone a positive reassessment, stressing his efficiency and beneficial economic policies. As a consequence, Domitian was rather popular with the people and the army but was considered a tyrant by members of the Roman Senate and he ended being thus assassinated by court officials. From the time of Augustus onwards, the imperial family and its circle monopolised official public statuary. Imperial portraits were displayed in temples of the imperial cult and along with coinage, sculpture was the preferred means of disseminating the emperor’s image. A number of scholars believes that official portraits were initially created in the capital city of Rome and then disseminated across the empire to serve as prototypes for local workshops. Despite this attempt at uniformity, local stylistic traits could not be suppressed and there was great aesthetic and technical regional variety across the whole of the empire. The sculpture depicts a mature, middle- aged ruler with thick-set features and small snail-shell like curls framing his forehead. The gaze is directed towards the viewer’s left. The impression is one of an experienced statesman with great authority. This imperial portrait head originates from one of the North African provinces of the Roman Empire. - (AM.0236)


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