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Work Tiberius (Emperor from AD 14 to 37)

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

L'empereur Tibère

© 2011 Musée du Louvre / Thierry Ollivier

Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities
Roman Art

Author(s):
Lepetoukha C.

This likeness of Tiberius corresponds to the "imperium maius" style of portrait that was created in AD 13, when Augustus granted Tiberius powers equal to his own. This head (which may have belonged to a statue wearing a cuirass) differs from other portraits of the same group in its austerity, which may have been due to this (very hypothetical) military character, but more probably resulted from the provincial origin of the work.

Tiberius

This stern countenance is the familiar one of Tiberius, prior to his accession to the head of the Roman Empire. The thin, rather bony face is structured by a well-defined chin and cheekbones. The rather forbidding expression is reinforced by the narrow, tight-lipped mouth. The short hair, which is hardly detailed, is styled in a fringe with very characteristic forked locks over the high forehead.

Augustus' successor

Tiberius (born in 42 BC) became the stepson of Augustus when the emperor married his mother Livia. He won renown for his glorious military career, but it was not until Augustus' appointed successors had died that the aging emperor resigned himself to adopting his stepson and making him his heir in 4 BC.
In AD 13, shortly before Augustus' death, Tiberius was named "imperium maius," a title that made him the emperor's equal by granting him supreme power in religious, legal, military, and civil affairs. A group of portraits has been linked to this event, as it shows similarities to an effigy on a coin that was minted for the occasion. The head in the Louvre belongs to this group, known as the "imperium maius type."

Augustan classicism

The style of this likeness is typical of portraits from the Augustan period: the influence of Republican portraiture is still present, but tempered by idealization with a strongly classicizing tendency. The sculptor's rendering of individual features - wide forehead and bony face - created an obvious resemblance to the future emperor, but this was toned down by the regularity of the face and its rather cold expression.The head from Philomelium differs from the other portraits of its group, however, in the ruggedness with which the princely features are rendered. This may have been because the statue was a military one and portrayed Tiberius wearing a cuirass. There is no material evidence, however, to support this theory. Perhaps the provincial origin of the head (perceptible in the summary treatment of the hair) suffices to explain the portrait's rather rugged appearance.

Bibliography

K. de Kersauson, Catalogue des portraits romains, I, Paris, 1986, n 72, p. 156.
Exposition Visages du Louvre, chefs-d'oeuvre du portrait dans les collections du Louvre, 18 septembre-1er décembre 1991, Musée National d'Art Occidental, Tokyo, n 33, p. 86.

Technical description

  • L'empereur Tibère

    Vers 13 après J.-C.

    Philomelium, Phrygie (Turquie)

  • Marbre

    H. : 32 cm.

  • Acquisition, 1888 , 1888

    Empereur de 14 - 37 après J.-C.

    N° d'entrée MNC 998 (n° usuel Ma 1255)

  • Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities

    Denon wing
    Ground floor
    Roman Art. Julio-Claudian period II
    Room 24

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