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Roman Multi-Colored Marble Bust of Emperor Marcus Aurelius - X.0396
Origin: Mediterranean
Circa: 2 nd Century AD
Dimensions: 16.375" (41.6cm) high
Collection: Classical
Style: Roman
Medium: Marble

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Today, Marcus Aurelius is remembered not only as a Roman Emperor, but also as a philosopher. Born Marcus Annius Verus, he was adopted by Emperor Antoninus Pius in 138 A.D. as a future heir. Their relationship was reinforced when he married Pius’ daughter Annia Galeria Faustina a few years later. With the line of descent securely arranged, there were few objections when Aurelius assumed the throne after the death of Antoninus in 161 A.D.

As Emperor, Marcus Aurelius instituted a series of reforms meant to ease the suffering of the poor. He lowered taxes while simultaneously constructing new schools, orphanages, and hospitals. He also attempted to humanize criminal laws and improve the treatment of slaves by their masters. On the military front, Aurelius led a series of campaigns to secure the frontiers of the empire. In 166, the legions successfully repelled the invading Parthians from Syria. The next year, he pushed back marauding Germanic tribes from the northern Rhine/Danube frontier.

As a philosopher, Aurelius authored the Meditations late in his life, a collection of his Stoic beliefs that is considered to be one of the most important books in history. He believed that man had been blessed by the gods with the gift of reason, and through this reason, man could align himself with the greater order of the universe. He preached that mankind should live life according to the principals of wisdom, justice, strength, and moderation. By living such a moral life, one could achieve a state of tranquility.

This impressive cuirassed bust of the emperor, composed of many different colors of marble, depicts Marcus Aurelius as a military leader, not as a philosopher. Clearly, Aurelius sought to promote his role as a confident and capable ruler. Aethestically, such a work can trace its origins back to earlier imperial sculptures like the famed Augustus Primaporta that portrayed the emperor as a triumphant general. By establishing this visual link to past rulers, Aurelius would have reinforced the legitimacy of his rule. The different colors of marble, from pink and purple to blue and white, differentiate between the alternate textures of flesh, cloth, and armor. This masterpiece of Roman Imperial portraiture is a monument to the reign of Marcus Aurelius that continues to impress the viewer much as his Meditations continues to inspire modern thinkers.
Dimensions: Height including base 16.5" (41.9 cm) - (X.0396)

 

 

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