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An imperial princess

UnknownCa. AD 20–50

Altes Museum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

Altes Museum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
Berlin, Germany

This portrait head depicts a young woman with a smooth oval face and well-proportioned features. Her cheeks, eyes, and small mouth are united into a harmonious physiognomy. Her hair is parted in the middle and falls to the sides in soft waves. It is woven into plaits at each ear and gathered into a small, tightly-wound bun at the neck. A crown of ten small curls crosses the woman’s forehead. In front of each ear, a lock of hair curves into a half circle before sweeping back to the nape of the neck.
Multiple portraits and statues with these same features are preserved, and can even be ordered into a series of copies. This suggests that the subject of the portrait was a member of the imperial family. The identification is further supported by the find spot of the Berlin head, apparently discovered at Kastro Tigani on Samos (now Pythagorio) – where there was a gallery of statues, including portraits of Augustus and Livia. The hairstyle of the Berlin portrait is modelled on that of Antonia Minor, mother of the emperor Claudius, and can be dated to the Tiberian period based on its typological development.
None of the portraits in this series can be securely identified. Most likely, however, they represent Livilla, sister of Claudius and daughter of Antonia Minor and Drusus Maior. Although Livilla died in AD 31, her portraits were set up posthumously in the family portrait galleries during the reign of her brother Claudius. The Berlin head may have belonged to just such an assemblage. It was carved separately from the body, intended to be inserted into the finished statue.

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  • Title: An imperial princess
  • Creator: Unknown
  • Date Created: Ca. AD 20–50
  • Location: Allegedly found on Samos
  • Physical Dimensions: h27,5 cm
  • Type: Sculpture
  • Medium: White marble
  • Object acquired: Acquired in 1927
  • Inv.-No.: Sk 1802
  • ISIL-No.: DE-MUS-814319
  • External link: Altes Museum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
  • Copyrights: Text: © Verlag Philipp von Zabern / Antikensammlung, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin / Dah. || Photo: © b p k - || Photo Agency / Antikensammlung, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin / Ingrid Geske
  • Collection: Antikensammlung, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin - Preußischer Kulturbesitz

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