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Work Juba II (King of Mauretania, 25 BC-AD 23)

Department of Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities: Roman Art

Juba II (King of Mauretania, 25 BC-AD 23)

© 2005 RMN / Hervé Lewandowski

Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities
Roman Art

Author(s):
Lepetoukha C.

This character with his royal headband is Juba II, sovereign of the Roman-ruled kingdom of Mauretania. Juba II was a scholarly prince who had been brought up at Caesar's court and was steeped in classical culture; his interest in Greek civilization is perceptible in this portrait, which owes a great deal to the Hellenistic sculptural tradition.

An aging prince

This full face portrait with high forehead and long, sunken cheeks, is framed by a mass of short, rather wild curls, held in place by a headband. The arch of the eyebrows overshadows the inner corner of the downward slanting eyes. The nose is broad, the mouth full and sensual, and there is a deep cleft in the chin.
Despite the damage it has incurred, the features of this tired face are recognizable as those of Juba II at the age of about sixty. When the head was discovered it was immediately identified as such; this suggestion was confirmed after comparison with effigies on coins and other portraits of the prince, whose strong features, wide-set eyes, and thick hair are clearly recognizable.

Juba II

Subsequent to the defeat and suicide of the Numidian king Juba I in 46 BC, his son was taken to Rome where he was raised by the sister of Octavian Augustus. The latter married him to Cleopatra Selene, daughter of Mark Anthony and Cleopatra, and granted him the regency of Mauretania (a territory comprising the western part of modern Algeria and Morocco). Juba II, who had been converted to classical culture by his Roman education, was a loyal vassal who did not betray the Roman cause. He settled in his capital Caesarea (modern Cherchell), whose very name was a homage to the master of Rome. More than anything he was an insatiably curious scholar and great art collector, who also wrote many historical and geographical treatises and organized scientific explorations to the Canary Islands and the sources of the Nile.

Hellenistic art

The classical culture of King Juba II is apparent in this portrait of the philhellenic king, which portrays him like a Hellenistic sovereign: beardless, short-haired, and wearing a royal headband. Hellenistic art also inspired the carefully modeled flesh and the idealization (which does not, however, overlook the subject's human qualities or ethnic group).
Juba II apparently founded a very Hellenized artistic community in Caesarea, where excavations unearthed some impressive copies of Greek works (such as an Aphrodite, an Apollo, and a Demeter that are now conserved in Cherchell). Moreover, Juba II brought Greek artists from Egypt to his capital, thereby creating a school of sculpture that ensured the continuity of the Hellenistic sculptural tradition.

Bibliography

K. de Kersauson, Catalogue des portraits romains, I, Paris, 1986, n 56, p. 124.
C. Landwehr, Die römischen Skulpturen von Caesarea Mauretaniae, I, Berlin, 1993.
Exposition L'Algérie au temps des royaumes numides, Musée départemental des Antiquités, Rouen, 16 mai-27 octobre 2003 et Musée national Cirta, Constantine, 18 février-18 mai 2004, n 166.

Technical description

  • Juba II (King of Mauretania, 25 BC-AD 23)

    Circa the Christian era

    Cherchell, ancient Caesarea (Algeria)

    Cherchell, ancient Caesarea (Algeria)?

  • Marble, sculpture in the round

    H. 28 cm

  • Waille mission, 1882

    N° d'entrée MNC 1576 (n° usuel Ma 1886)

  • Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities

    Denon wing
    Ground floor
    Roman Art. Julio-Claudian period I
    Room 23

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