Who's bust is this?
October 3, 2012 9:40 PM   Subscribe

Who's bust is this? (probably in a Berlin museum)

A friend took this pic while traveling and describes it as "Probably the sexiest man who ever lived. Even without half his face."
posted by levijk to Media & Arts (10 answers total)
Marcus Antonius?
posted by sbutler at 10:20 PM on October 3, 2012

Is it Hadrian? It looks like the bust has a beard.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:21 PM on October 3, 2012

Antoninus Pius is another possibility.
posted by misteraitch at 2:05 AM on October 4, 2012

It might well be Antoninus Pius, if you compare his busts with how close the eyes are to each other in the mystery bust.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:32 AM on October 4, 2012

The bust is definitely bearded and beards only came into fashion in Rome in the 2nd century - and were made popular, largely, by Hadrian. Hadrian was my first instinct, but I can see the argument for Antonius Pius. Definitely in that timeframe (117 - 161), though, based on the style of sculpture.

Poking around online, I think that it comes from the Altes Museum in Berlin, based on the red background, like is found in this other bust of Caracalla.
posted by urbanlenny at 8:26 AM on October 4, 2012

The wide neck makes it look like Nero to me.
posted by notquitemaryann at 10:08 AM on October 4, 2012

Nm, I'll second Caracalla. Nero seems to have been very particular about his fringe.
posted by notquitemaryann at 10:13 AM on October 4, 2012

Roman sculpture, especially that of the imperial family, follows certain trends, not only stylistically and based on the way people actually looked and did their hair, but as a form of propaganda that served to tie one emperor to his predecessor, thereby establishing his legitimacy to rule. You can get a pretty good idea of when a sculpture was done by the way the hair and beard appear on the subject.

(as an aside, when I am saying CE, I mean the Common Era, which is a secular alternative to AD/anno domini. I also studied this kind of stuff in school, so apologies for the mini-essay on Roman imperial sculpture. :) )

Nero had the classic Julio-Claudian haircut, which is typified by that style of fringe - sometimes with two bang pieces, sometimes three, but always generally the same. It started with Julius Caesar and went through, more or less, through the Flavian Emperors (69-96 CE) to Trajan (98-117 CE) in the early 2nd century. All of those men were beardless and beards were typically perceived to be something worn by barbarians (the word "barbarian" may even come from the Latin word for beard, barba).

The next style starts more or less with Hadrian (117-138 CE), who was a bit of a Hellenophile and began the wearing of beards that continued for quite awhile. Future emperors followed his lead, tying their own legitimacy to his (he was a popular emperor and part of the five good emperor dynasty in which pretty much everyone was an adoptive heir). As this period continues, curly hair is popular and the curls become increasingly ornate and drilled, which is particularly seen once one gets to the Severan line (198-235) with Septimius Severus; Caracalla is Septimius Severus's successor, and his portraiture has the same deep-drilled curl style, so it is probably not him.

The lack of drilling in the curls of this particular bust makes it very likely it is earlier than the Severans and thus from around the mid-2nd century CE. My money is still on Hadrian or Antoninus Pius or something from that period (as commoners would have equally wanted to emulate the style of their rulers).

For a general citation to what I am talking about, this article actually has a pretty good rundown of sculpture style.
posted by urbanlenny at 12:18 PM on October 4, 2012 [2 favorites]

Looks like a young Hadrian to me.
posted by Mertonian at 3:18 PM on October 4, 2012

I'll admit that the reason I said Marc Antony is less because of how the bust looks and more because of your friend's comment. For the reasons urbanlenny explains, the hair makes it obviously not any of the Julio-Claudians.

So I started to ask myself, which others famous romans would your random person know (and consider sexy)? Immediately Marc Antony springs to mind, he has curly hair, and everyone knows what a stud he was. Ergo, my answer.

Still not convinced there's a beard on that guy. Looks more to me like just damage caused when he lost the bottom half of his face.
posted by sbutler at 6:09 PM on October 4, 2012

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