Object Record

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Catalog number 59.2
Title Portrait bust of a man in the guise of a Roman emperor
Object Name Sculpture
Description This bust-length figure crowned with laurel leaves, wearing a broadly-draped cape fastened over a square-necked tunic, appears to be a 1500-1599 AD man in the guise of a Roman emperor. However, this facial type, with thick eyebrows and brushy moustache, does not resemble any known antique emperor type. It is nevertheless based upon the late Hellenistic and Roman belief in survival after death, and that the face was the vestige of the mortal being who either earned or lost a blissful hereafter. Its visual sources are late Roman: 2nd-century C.E. male busts are shown with hair and beards that cascade with curls, as opposed to a century later, when the long, flowing curls vanish and the close-fitting skullcap style, seen in this bust, was favored. The facial hair also appears as a simple sheath on the chin, as opposed to the grizzlier beards of the previous century. Towards the latter part of the 3rd century, the worried, furrowed brow seen in this bust remained one of the few naturalistic facial characteristics, and as the 4th century progressed, faces of rulers became more generalized and rigid.

Unlike more naturalistic Renaissance busts, classical imitations like this one lack a feeling of mobility. The head is always on a firm vertical axis with the body and neck, while the shoulders are situated horizontally. To say that the Renaissance revived the classical bust is thus not entirely true; the difference in structure shows otherwise.

It should be noted that the bust was not always an acceptable form of portraiture, even though it could trace its roots back to classical antiquity. The portrait bust, viewed by early Christians as a pagan symbol reminiscent of idol worship, was not in fact widely revitalized until the latter part of the 16th century.
Gale Matthews, in "SCHOLARS, EXPLORERS, PRIESTS, How the Renaissance Gave Us the Modern World," ex. cat. G -T M, Queens College, CUNY, February 2 - March 27, 2010, 40.
Medium/Material Bronze
Dimensions H-10.5 W-6.75 D-3.75 inches
Year Range from 1500
Year Range to 1600
Search Terms Renaissance
16th century AD
Europe
Italy
Face
Bust
Emperor
Figure
Ruler
Portrait
Personification
Metalwork, bronze
Exhibition and Publication History *"Queens College Art Collection," 1960, #240.
*Museum of Archaeology, Staten Island, 7/7/80-5/30/81.
* "Italian Art, 15th to 18th Century: Selections from the Permanent Col.," G-TM, 1986, p.41, #28, ill. , Suzanna Simor
*"Director's Choice, Part II," G-TM, 10/10-12/20/02, #7. A. Winter, Curator.
* "SCHOLARS, EXPLORERS, PRIESTS, How the Renaissance Gave Us the Modern World," Curated by James M. Saslow, G -T M, Queens College, CUNY, February 2 - March 27, 2010, # 40, ill.
Culture North Italian