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Head of Trajan
early 2nd century
Material and technique
white marble
34 x 19 cm
Alessandro Zuccari
The sculpture is a true-to-life portrait of Trajan, as is clear from a comparison with coins minted between AD 108 and AD 111 when the Roman Empire expanded to its greatest extent under the command of this emperor of Spanish origin. The severity of the expression well suits the prince who consolidated the power of the empire. He is captured here shortly before his exploits were depicted in the two-hundred-metre long monumental bas-relief spiralling up Trajan’s Column. The evocative white marble portrait in fact dates from the period of his reign, AD 98-117.
The head was part of a bust of the emperor, one of many destined for official buildings in Rome and the provinces, and it portrays Trajan at his most vigorous. It is of the type issued for the ‘Decennalia’, that is, to celebrate the tenth year of Trajan’s reign in AD 108, and it introduced greater realism in the depiction of likenesses of the emperor. The portrait is both incisive and economic in detail, particularly the hair, and stylizes the facial features of the striking original bust, of which an excellent example exists in the British Museum in London: the low forehead, thin lips and jutting chin are set in the slightly tilted oval of the head.
Head of Trajan
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