Roman Bronze Portrait Bust of a Young Caracalla.
About the Piece
This Roman bronze portrait bust dates circa 2nd century A.D., and is the terminal end for a leg that served as a table support for a folding tripod. These Roman bronze tripods were portable and moved with the Roman armies and/or wealthy families. This piece had a L-shaped hook at the back that supported a caldron that was at the center of the tripod. This piece is in the form of a portrait bust, and may depict the young Roman emperor Caracalla. This bust also has an attribute relative to Herakles, as the figure is seen wearing a lion's skin cloak. The face has a short cropped beard, a rounded nose, and a wide forehead which are prominent features of Caracalla. The head is slightly turned to the right as are many Roman marble portrait busts during this period. The hair is seen as thick rounded curls which may indicate a wig, as Caracalla was known to have worn a golden haired wig that was arranged in the German style. Caracalla was born in 188 A.D., and in 213 A.D. as emperor, he left Rome for Germany and defeated the Alamanni on the upper Rhine River. Caracalla often wore a flowing Gallic cloak which gave him his nickname, and the bust seen here shows a lion's skin cloak that is not only an attribute of Herakles, but is also an attribute of Alexander the Great. After Caracalla's victories in Germany, he planned an invasion of the Parthian east, and in 214 A.D., he mustered a great army for this oriental expedition, including a phalanx of sixteen thousand men, clothed and equipped like the Macedonians of old. Caracalla liked to see himself as a new Alexander the Great, and this may explain the lion's skin cloak seen on this piece. Caracalla met his end in 216 A.D., near Edessa in Media, and was stabbed to death by supporters of Macrinus. This piece may be a portrait of Caracalla for the reasons noted above, and there is a strong possibility that this stylized image is an image of Caracalla as seen in the guise of Alexander the Great. (The portraiture of Alexander the Great is noteworthy for the wide range of styles that were employed to portray his unique physiognomy. The treatment of the hair, for example, can be long and wavy, while others emphasize the cowlick seen above the forehead which is known as the "anastole". This "anastole" can be seen on the piece offered here, with the hair raising up as a curl from the center of the forehead. For several examples of this hair style see F. Antonovich, "Les Metamorphoses divines d'Alexander", Paris, 1996.) This bust is also analogous to the marble bust of Caracalla that is seen in the Staatliche Museen in Berlin, Germany. (See "The Art of Rome" by Bernard Andreae, Abrams Pub., New York, 1977, no. 551.) This marble bust dates circa 212 A.D., and was created on the occasion of Caracalla becoming sole ruler. This marble bust also has large hair curls and bare arms/upper chest, as seen in the bronze bust offered here. This piece is approximately 3 inches high and is mounted on a custom stand. This piece has a superb dark green patina with spotty dark red highlights. Ex: American private collection. Ex: Sotheby's Antiquities New York, Dec. 2006, no. 122. I certify that this piece is authentic as to date, culture, and condition: