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HOME : Classical Antiquities : Archive : Bronze Head of Marcus Aurelius
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Bronze Head of Marcus Aurelius - AM.0347
Origin: Mediterranean
Circa: 2 nd Century AD
Dimensions: 13.39" (34.0cm) high
Collection: Classical
Style: Roman Period
Medium: Bronze

Additional Information: SOLD

Location: Great Britain
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This magnificent Roman bronze head depicts a man of mature years. The head is tilted slightly to the viewer’s right and the almond shaped eyes gaze upwards, suggesting a meditative state. The details of the hair and beard have been expertly rendered, with the curls brushed forward over the forehead. The texture of the beard and moustache is incredibly naturalistic, as are the fine lines around the eyes and nose. The most unusual feature is the necklace or collar which sits around the base of the broad, muscular neck. Bronze sculptures of this kind are extremely rare as the material was susceptible to being melted down and re-used, especially following Rome’s conversion to Christianity. Over the centuries the surface has acquired a striking green patina that testifies to its age.

The sitter has been identified as the emperor and philosopher Marcus Aurelius (reigned 161-180 AD). Remembered as the last of the ‘Five Good Emperors,’ he ruled when the empire was at its greatest extent. Respecting the wishes of his adoptive father, he appointed his brother Lucius Verus co-emperor until the latter’s death on campaign in 169 AD. It was during this period that the so-called ‘Pax Romana’ came to end and Rome faced new military threats from a renewed Parthian Empire and the Germanic tribes along its northern borders. However in addition to his noteworthy military career, Marcus Aurelius was also a Stoic philosopher who wrote a guide to government service and duty known as the ‘Meditations.’ Although this was a personal endeavour, designed for private reflection, its publication in the sixteenth century won it wide renown. The Emperor clearly took the welfare of his subjects seriously and initiated a wide range of legal reforms to assist marginalised social groups. For example, measures were introduced to make it easier for slaves to win their freedom. It is the philosophical and humane aspects of Marcus Aurelius’ character that come across most strongly in this portrait. Indeed this was the persona that Marcus encouraged during his own lifetime, declaring himself a protector of philosophy during a tour of Athens. This piece is a truly evocative example of classical art and deserves to be the centrepiece of any serious collection. - (AM.0347)


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