Cameo bust of Octavian by Unknown Artist

The cameo is carved with great skill on a miniature scale from a sliver of matt, white chalcedony only 18 mm thick.

Details

Medium:
Agate
Dimensions:
3 x 3 cm
Art Fund grant:
£10,000 ( Total: £20,000)
Acquired in:
1996
Vendor:
Thomas M Swope

The portrait represents a youngish man in three-quarter left profile. He is dressed in a tunic, the folds delicately carved, and a toga pulled up to veil the back of his head. In front of the veil is a laurel wreath, worn over locks of hair falling in a wavy fringe. The face is broad, with jutting chin and prominent cheekbones. The brows are knitted and the lips slightly pursed. The gaze is intense, and the overall impression of emotion is increased by the movement of the head. For many years this portrait has been identified as a representation of Augustus, and indeed the hairstyle and facial features strongly resemble those of other portraits of that emperor. Yet its expressive style is derived from the images of the Hellenistic Greek kings who ruled the eastern Mediterranean lands once conquered by Alexander the Great of Macedon.

Provenance

William, 2nd Earl of Bessborough; Duke of Marlborough; Two American private collections.

Venue details

British Museum Great Russell Street, LONDON London WC1B 3DG 020 7323 8299 www.britishmuseum.org

Entry details

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