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Portrait of a Young Man Marcus Aurelius

Roman art

140-160 D.C.
Third Corridor (A24)
Greek marble
58 cm (height)
1914 no. 191

The presence of this work, restored by Innocenzo Spinazzi, was first recorded in the Gallery in 1778. Both the head and bust, partly covered by a cloak fastened by a circular fibula on the right shoulder, are ancient but do not belong together. The portrait shows a young man with an oval face, soft features and a wide forehead, framed by locks of hair created using a drill for a bold chiaroscuro effect. The balanced composition and thoughtful expression reveal a great spirituality and intensity of thought, which is why it was initially thought to be Marcus Aurelius in the period immediately before his ascent to the throne. Today, it has been suggested that the subject is actually an influential personage from the early Antonine age, who chose to be portrayed with the same hairstyle and features as the future emperor. This practice of assimilating the emperor’s image in private portraits was quite widespread in the imperial period, and is to be taken as a show of consent by citizens towards the emperor and his politics.


3D Model realized in collaboration with Indiana University.
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