The Farnese collection, like many other antiquities collections in Renaissance, is not merely an assemblage of beautiful or rare objects but, in a more meaningful way, serves as a means for the self-representation of such powerful family, that considers itself the direct descendant of the emperors of Rome. In this logic, the imperial portraits are displayed in the ceremonial rooms, as if they were images of illustrious ancestors.
Modern busts of emperors were placed in the Sala Grande of the Farnese Palace in Campo dei Fiori, which was intented to be a treasure chest for the forming collection, in a constant dialogue between architecture, decoration, ancient and modern works of art.
On the other hand, there were also ancient statues of emperors in the Farnese Palace . They are marvellous full-length sculptures, like this one, originally representing an emperor of the early 3rd century, with its head portraying Cesar added on the occasion of the transfer to Naples.
Colossal portraits, like this of Julius Caesar, belonging to the sculptural decoration of the Forum of Trajan in Rome.
Colossal portraits of emperors shown in their heroic nudity, like Alexander Severus, almost 4 mt tall.
Particularly frequent are the images of enlightened emperors, such as Hadrian and Marcus Aurelius, who was an emperor and philosopher. They were the main protagonists of the largest expansion of the empire in its period of peace.
A prominent element in the Hall of Emperors, the portrait of Caracalla contrasts the traditional image of bearded emperors inaugurated by Hadrian and originally referring to the image of philosophers. The emperor is represented here as a soldier, with a scowl on his face, ready for imminent action.
Next to emperors stood their family members. Never exhibited in the Palace, but in the gardens of the Palatine Hill and then at Villa Farnesina, this sculpture gained immediate notoriety as the old woman was tentatively identified as Agrippina, mother of Nero.
The statue of Antinous, the young lover of Hadrian, deified after his death on the Nile, was very famous. The sculpture was placed in one of the niches of the Carracci Gallery, one of the most significant halls in the building.
Photo Luigi Spina