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Work Lucius Verus (Co-Emperor from AD 161 to 169)

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

The emperor Lucius Verus

© 2008 Musée du Louvre / Daniel Lebée et Carine Déambrosis

Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities
Roman Art

Author(s):
Lepetoukha C.

This is a colossal head of Lucius Verus, co-emperor with Marcus Aurelius from AD 161-169. Lucius's features are familiar from a number of other portraits. The monumental dimensions of this effigy, which exemplifies the transition from the sensitive works of the Antonian period to the more extravagant baroque style, served to glorify the ruler after his death.

Lucius Verus

This colossal head, mounted on a modern bust, is one of the finest existing portraits of Lucius Verus, who was co-emperor from AD 161 until his death from the plague in 169. The prince's features are recognizable from many other portraits - notably his luxuriant hair and beard, portrayed here with deeply sculpted curls.

A portrait to honor a dead husband

This portrait was one of a pair, with a similarly-sized bust of Marcus Aurelius, who was emperor from AD 161 to 180. Both come from a villa belonging to Lucius Verus in Acqua Traversa, near Rome.
The magnified, larger-than-life representation suggests that it was a posthumous work, probably commissioned by Lucilla, the wife of Lucius Verus and daughter of Marcus Aurelius. The piece was therefore probably made sometime between the death of Marcus Aurelius in AD 180, and that of Lucilla in AD 183.

Masterly portraiture from the Nervan-Antonian dynasty

This portrait is exceptional both for its size and its state of preservation. It is also one of the most striking expressions of the baroque style which came into fashion in the Roman empire during the late second century, representing a complete break with classical tradition. The exaggerated volumes of the hair and beard, deeply sculpted by the artist, contrasts with the extraordinary smoothness of the face. These skillful effects were taken to extremes during the reign of Commodus (AD 180-92), before the Severan dynasty heralded a return to more restrained styles.

Bibliography

K. de Kersauson, Catalogue des portraits romains, II, Paris 1996, n 122, p. 272.

Technical description

  • The emperor Lucius Verus

    Between AD 180 and 183

    Provenance:

  • Marble

    H. 53 cm

  • Former Borghese collection. Purchased in 1807

    Co-emperor with Marcus Aurelius from AD 161 to 169

    Inventaire MR 550 (n° usuel Ma 1170)

  • Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities

    Denon wing
    Ground floor
    Roman art. Rome and the provinces in the 3rd century AD
    Room 26

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Additional information about the work

The bust is modern