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HOME : Classical Antiquities : Classical Masterpieces : Glass Portrait Of The Emperor Septimius Severus
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Glass Portrait Of The Emperor Septimius Severus - GF.0250
Origin: Jerusalem
Circa: 193 AD to 211 AD
Dimensions: 1.375" (3.5cm) high x 0.75" (1.9cm) wide
Collection: Classical
Medium: Glass

Location: UAE
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Septimius Severus is known as the principle and primary agent in the decline and fall of the Roman Empire. His firm and militant hand tore out the final props of the Senate’s power, and the last validation of its pride. After his prosperous, though brief reign, Rome was doomed to be terrorized by a succession of worthless leaders and greedy soldiers, the effects of which, she would never completely recover from. But posterity seems to forget that since the age of the Antonines, unruly senators and apathetic emperors, dissolved by faction, allowed the funds dedicated to the pursuit of Roman art and public works to dissolve into a tangle of bureaucracy and extortion. It was the same hand that obliterated the senate that restored the votive arts to their coveted place in society, and the original splendor of their craftsmanship. In the words of Gibbon, “Severus was passionately addicted to the vain studies of magic and divination.” It was for this reason that he so meticulously restored the funding of the temples, the salaries of the artisans, and the dignity of the artists. He was ever wary of under- serving the Gods, and ever frightened of their disapproval. In this exquisitely subtle and detailed piece of glasswork, we can clearly see the anxious piety of the Emperor. His eyes glance upwards, wide and mystified under the reach of a perplexed brow. His cheeks are lined with infinitesimal wrinkles, that curve around his lips and play into his beard. Sometimes, rarely, a work of art both beautiful and sensitive, crafted with masterful skill, causes us to expand our perceptions of the world that created it. In the presence of great art, blending talent and vision, we marvel at the infinite heights to which the imagination aspires. We wonder who shaped it and for what patron, what pride each felt in the finished object, what emotions it stirred in others. This miniature portrait of sea-colored glass is such a treasure. Carved with superb detail, majestic yet with a trace of apprehension, it possesses the emotional power of works on a much larger scale. Its perfection suggests it came from an imperial workshop; perhaps the gift of the emperor himself to some favored courtier. A masterpiece of the glassmaker's art, it delights and awes the senses today as it surely did when Rome was in her glory. - (GF.0250)


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