The J. Paul Getty Museum

Portrait Head of Plautilla

Object Details


Portrait Head of Plautilla






Roman Empire (Place Created)


A.D. 200–205


Marble, fine-grained

Object Number:



30.5 × 18 × 22 cm (12 × 7 1/16 × 8 11/16 in.)

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Object Description

Depicted in this portrait is the Empress Plautilla (ca. A.D. 185-212), wife of Caracalla (A.D. 188-217) and daughter of the praetorian prefect Fulvius Plautianus. Few sculptures survive of the empress, who was exiled by her husband in A.D. 205 and then murdered on his orders in A.D. 212. She is shown as a young girl. Her hair is parted in the center, and a series of vertically oriented braids cover the sides and top of her head. These braids come down low on the nape of the neck, where they are folded back up to just below the occiput. Loose waves of hair are brushed over the frontal braids and form a wide band over the forehead. Plautilla was the first empress to wear this elaborately braided hairstyle. She turns her head to her right. Her irises are articulated and her pupils drilled. This head was once attached to a statue. The portrait has been associated stylistically with the third of Plautilla's portrait types. The surface is eroded. Other damage has occurred to the tip of her nose and to her lips.

- 1972

Robin Symes, Limited, founded 1977, dissolved 2005 (London, England), sold to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1972.

Roman Portrait Sculpture (February 20 to April 9, 1980)
  • Mary Porter Sesnon Art Gallery (Santa Cruz), February 20 to April 9, 1980
Portraits: Ancient and Contemporary (October 14 to November 10, 1980)
  • Laband Gallery, Loyola Marymount University (Los Angeles), October 14 to November 10, 1980
Caesars and Citizens: Roman Portrait Sculpture from the J. Paul Getty Museum (April 26, 1981 to February 28, 1982)
  • Philbrook Museum of Art (Tulsa), April 26 to July 12, 1981
  • Archer M. Huntington Art Gallery (Austin), September 17 to December 6, 1981
  • Phoenix Art Museum (Phoenix), January 6 to February 28, 1982
Tyranny and Transformation in Roman Portraiture (September 16, 2000 to March 25, 2001)
  • Michael C. Carlos Museum of Emory University (Atlanta), September 16, 2000 to January 8, 2001
  • Yale University Art Gallery (New Haven), January 30 to March 25, 2001

Frel, Jirí, and Elizabeth Buckley. Greek and Roman Portraits in the J. Paul Getty Museum. exh. cat. California State University at Northridge, October 16-November 11, 1973 (1973), no. 41.

Vermeule, Cornelius, and Norman Neuerberg. Catalogue of the Ancient Art in the J. Paul Getty Museum (Malibu: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1973), p. 34, no. 74, ill.

Fittschen, Klaus. "Review of Das römische Herrscherbild, 3, 1. Caracalla, Geta, Plautilla, Macrinus bis Balbinus," Göttingische gelehrte Anzeigen 230 (1978), 149 n. 29.

Fredericksen, Burton B., Jiří Frel, and Gillian Wilson. Guidebook: The J. Paul Getty Museum. 4th ed. Sandra Morgan, ed. (Malibu: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1978), p. 52.

Inan, Jale, and Elisabeth Alföldi-Rosenbaum. Römische und frühbyzantinische Porträtplastik aus der Türkei: neue Funde. (Mainz am Rhein : von Zabern, 1979), pp. 333-34, no. 333; pl. 240.3-4. wrongly said to be from Asia Minor.

Erhart, Patricia, Jiri Frel, Sandra Morgan, and Sheldon Nodelman. Roman Portraits: Aspects of Self and Society (exh. cat.), Sesnon Art Gallery, University of California at Santa Cruz, February 20-April 9, 1980, and Loyola Marymount University Art Gallery, October 14-November 11, 1980. (1980), no. 15.

Frel, Jirí. In collaboration with Sandra Knudsen Morgan. Roman Portraits in the Getty Museum. Exh. cat. for "Caesars and Citizens," Philbrook Art Center, Tulsa, Oklahoma, April 26-July 12, 1981, pp. 92-93, 130, no. 76, ill.

Yegul, Fikret K. "A Roman Lady from a Southern California Collection." The J. Paul Getty Museum Journal 9 (1981), pp. 63-68, p. 65; figs. 8-10.

Chamay, Jacques, Jiřì Frel, and Jean-Louis Maier. Le monde des Césars: Portraits romains (Geneva: Musée d'art et d'histoire de Genève 1982), p. 185; pls. 40, 40a-b.

Nodelman, Sheldon. "A Portrait of the Empress Plautilla." The J. Paul Getty Museum Journal 10 (1982), pp. 105-120, figs. 1-5.

Varner, Eric R., ed. From Caligula to Constantine. Tyranny and Transformation in Roman Portraiture. Exh. cat., Michael C. Carlos Museum, September 16, 2000-January 7, 2001; Yale University Art Gallery, January 31-March 25, 2001. Atlanta: 2000, pp. 180-83, cat. no. 42.

Ziegler, Daniela. Frauenfrisuren der römischen Antike-Abbild und Realität. (Berlin: Weißensee-Verlag, 2000), pp. 52-53, no. 18, pl. 9.

Meischner, Jutta, Bildnisse der Spätantike 193-500. Problemfelder: Die Privatporträts (Berlin: Edition BNB, 2001), p. 20 (AD 193-207).

Varner, Eric R. Mutilation and Transformation. Damnatio Memoriae and Roman Imperial Portraiture (Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2004), pp. 166-67, fig. 164.