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Portrait of an unknown woman (said to be Julia, daughter of Titus)

Roman art

117-128 A.D.
Vasari Corridor
Greek marble (head)
59.7 cm (height), ancient part 29.8 cm
1914 n. 116

The sculpture depicts an unknown lady, identified by the inscription on the pedestal as Iulia Titi, that is, Julia, daughter of Emperor Titus, the second emperor of the Flavian dynasty (79-81 AD). The facial features, however, deviate from the canon of the Flavian princesses, appearing closer to certain portraits of Antinous, Hadrian's favourite. The hairstyle consists of a low toupee of semi-circular curls that frame the forehead, and a bun of wavy locks at the back, which has been partially restored. This last detail can be compared with the so-called turban or roll hairstyle, dating to between 128 and 139 AD, which recurs in the portraits of Vibia Sabina, wife of emperor Hadrian. However, it was already known from the portraits of Matidia the Elder, Sabina's mother, and her grandmother Marciana, the sister of Emperor Trajan, portrayed on coins between 112 and 120 AD.

The portrait has been identified as Julia, daughter of Titus, also due to the great fame of this matron. From birth, she had been at the centre of the propaganda of the House of Flavia, and she was elevated to the status of Augusta during her lifetime, and deified after her death by her uncle, Domitian. Perceived by historiography as a negative model, especially due to accusations of incest with her father's younger brother, Prince Domitian, Julia thus served as a symbolic figure of the Flavian dynasty.

The origin of the marble is uncertain, although it has been suggested that it was purchased in 1581 by Cardinal Ferdinando de' Medici. There is evidence that the sculpture has been in the collection since 1753, but it was probably part of the group of marble works located in the Hall of Inscriptions since its inauguration at the beginning of the 18th century.

Text by
Novella Lapini
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