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Portrait of Valentinian I or Valens (or Constantine)

Roman art

Third quarter of the 4th century AD
Third Corridor (A24)
Italic marble
158 cm (height)
1914 n. 273

The portrait depicts a mature man with a slightly square face and wavy hair, encircled by a diadem made of a string of square and rhomboidal precious stones. The forehead is furrowed by a single wrinkle, and the eyes, swollen and protruding, show raised eyelids and hollow irises, while the drooping cheeks and double chin denote the subject's advanced age. The portrait was already in the Uffizi in 1676, the result of an acquisition by Ferdinand II from the Roman Ludovisi family, and survived the fire in the Corridoio di Ponente in 1762. It is believed that the sculpture depicts Valentinian I or Valens II, the two brothers who were born in Pannonia, came to power in 364 AD and both died in tragic circumstances. The difficulty in accurately identifying the subject depicted is due to the artistic conventions of the time, which preferred the adoption of an ideal figurative scheme to physiognomic realism, considered suitable to portray the decision, authority and moral strength of the autocrat. Because of this, with regard to the imperial portraiture of the mid-4th century AD, we speak of real "masks of power", which entrusted their identification to the attributes worn and the inscriptions that always accompanied the statue. Some details of the face, such as the nose, the ears and the upper lip, are of modern restoration.


3D model in collaboration with Indiana University.
Visit http://www.digitalsculpture.org/florence/


P. Casari, I volti dei potenti, pp. 64-73, in S. Piussi (a cura di), Cromazio di Aquileia 388-408. Al crocevia di genti e religioni, Catalogo della mostra di Udine (Palazzo Patriarcale, 6 novembre 2008 – 8 marzo 2009), Milano, Silvana editoriale, 2008;  A. Romualdi (a cura di), Studi e restauri. I marmi antichi della Galleria degli Uffizi, II, Firenze, Polistampa, 2007 (con contributi di A. Romualdi, Ritratto di Valentiniano I (364-375) o di Valente (364-378) cosiddetto Costantino, pp. 214-219; D. Manna, Il restauro, pp. 220-221) e bibliografia precedente.

Text by
Fabrizio Paolucci
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