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Augustus Caesar - Item #400

$ 8,500.00



88 Inches High

Augustus's features are idealized here as he desired for his portraits. No matter his age, the Roman Emperor who ruled from 27 B.C.E. to 14 C.E. would direct that a new portrait depict him as a handsome, young man. Even after his death sculptors continued to show him in the way he desired, as was the case with this statue. Here he is shown in the Greek classic style of the 5th and 4th centuries B.C.E. with simplified features, an aquiline nose, and overlapping locks of hair. The breastplate, consisting of detailed reliefs, is full of allegorical and political statements. The central image depicts a Parthian king returning the standard lost during the Battle of Carrhae to a Roman officer (or possibly the goddess Roma) while illustrated around them are gods and goddesses. Since the Julian family claimed to be descended from the goddess Venus, the sculpture includes her son Cupid riding a dolphin at Augustus's side. The original marble statue is likely a copy of an earlier bronze statue, and the marble would have been painted; remnants of many colors have been found. The statue was discovered in 1863 in Prima Porta outside of Rome in the villa where Augustus's wife lived after he died. Comparisons have been made between the sculpture and a type of Greek figurative sculpture, an example of which is the Doryphoros now located in the Naples National Archaeological Museum. The two statues are similar in stance and in classical features.

Because some of the statue's fingers were missing when it was found and the hands held no objects, scholars debate over whether Augustus once held anything and what those objects may have been if so. Some say his right hand is in a gesture of adlocutio, meaning he is depicted giving an address to his army. Others say his right hand might have held a spear, which has generally been the assumption for his left hand. If not a spear, his left hand may have held a laurel branch. Speculation will continue as we learn more about Ancient Rome, its art, and this sculpture.


Artist: Unknown

Museum: New Wing (Braccio Nuovo), Vatican Museums, Vatican City

Origin: Villa of Livia at Prima Porta

Time Period: Ancient Roman- Early 1st century C.E.

1911 Catalog ID # - 544



"Augustus from Prima Porta." Musei Vaticani,

Pollini, John. "The Augustus from Prima Porta and the Transformation of the Polykleitan Heroic Ideal: The Rhetoric of Art." Polykleitos, the Doryphoros, and Tradition, edited by Warren G. Moon, The University of Wisconsin Press, 1995, pp. 262-282. GoogleBooks,

Ramage, Nancy H. and Andrew Ramage. "Augustus and the Imperial Idea, 27 BC-AD 14." Roman Art: Romulus to Constantine. 5th ed., Pearson Prentice Hall, 2009, pp. 111-143.