Portrait bust of Vespasian, recarved from a bust of Nero

Roman
Imperial Period
A.D. 70–96


Dimensions

Height: 11.5 cm (4 1/2 in.)

Accession Number

98.768

Medium or Technique

Chalcedony

On View

Anne and Blake Ireland Gallery (Gallery 210A)

Collections

The Ancient World

Classifications

Sculpture

The portrait of the Roman emperor Vespasian depicts him realistically as a bald, wrinkled man, wearing a paludamentum (military cloak) fastened on his right shoulder. The hair atop his head and temples is thin and brushed forward, while that on the nape of his neck is thick, arranged horizontally, and is carved with more detail. It recalls the fashion of the late Julio-Claudian emperors, suggesting that the portrait was originally of the Roman emperor Nero and was later recut to represent Vespasian. The rear of the portrait has a notch, as if to attach it to another object, probably as an imago clipeata (a portrait that projects at an angle from a circular frame, like a shield). The tip of the nose and edges of the ears are broken, and there is a large piece chipped from the front of the bust.

Provenance

By date unknown: Count Michel Tyszkiewicz Collection; 1898: auction of the M. Tyszkiewicz Collection, Hotel des Commissaires-Priseurs, 9 rue Drouot, Paris, June 8-10, lot 239; 1898: with Edward Perry Warren; 1898: purchased by MFA from Edward Perry Warren for $ 69,618.13 (this figure is the total price for MFA 98.641-98.940)

Credit Line

Henry Lillie Pierce Fund