Roman Marble Portrait of a Julio-Claudian Prince

Roman Marble Portrait of a Julio-Claudian Prince

An ancient Roman marble portrait of a young Julio-Claudian prince, perhaps Britannicus. He is portrayed turned slightly to his left, his oval face with delicate features, with narrow eyes, with thick lids, the bow-shaped lips gently pressed together, the chin rounded, his hair centrally parted, once with a crown.

Ca. Mid-1st century AD.
Height: 10 in. (25.4 cm).

The hairstyle, featuring thick locks of hair parted over the middle of the forehead, and idealized facial features are typical of Roman portrait art depicting the Julio-Claudians (descendants of the first Roman emperor, Augustus). While the exact identity of this member of the Imperial family is unknown, the youth most closely resembles the young prince Britannicus (41 - ca. 55 AD), son of the Emperor Claudius and step-brother of Nero. Britannicus inherited the name from his father, as Claudius received the title following his conquest of Britian in 43 AD.

A carved indentation encircling the hair of the youth suggests that the portrait once bore a crown, possibly the corona civica, a crown of oak leaves granted to one who had saved the lives of fellow Roman citizens in battle. Britannicus appears to have been the first of the young Julio-Claudians to be represented wearing the corona civica. The youth could alternatively have worn a laurel wreath, awarded to victors in athletic competitions.

Cf. Portrait of Britannicus in Rome in the Vatican Museum, Museo gregoriano profano, inv. no. 10221.

Formerly in the Eugene V. Thaw collection.

Inv#: 7035

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