Portrait Head of Augustus

Object Details


Portrait Head of Augustus






Roman Empire (Place created)


25 - 1 B.C.




39 × 21 × 24 cm (15 3/8 × 8 1/4 × 9 7/16 in.)

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After many years of civil war, Augustus took complete power in Rome in 27 B.C. He claimed that he was re-establishing the Roman Republic, but he actually founded the Roman Empire. Visual signs emphasizing its power and legitimacy bolstered this new political order.

Portraits of Augustus served as symbols of his political agenda rather than corresponding to his physical features as described in written sources. Augustus is always shown in an ideal, classicizing style, and his appearance bears little relation to his actual age. One constant feature of Augustus's portraits is his hairstyle, with its distinctive forked locks of hair on his forehead.

by 1939 - still in 1940

Private Collection (Norway)

- 1974

Charles Nilsson (Stockholm, Sweden) [sold, European, Classical, Byzantine, Western Asiatic and Egyptian Antiquities and Ancient Jewellery, Christie's, London, July 10-11, 1974, lot 203 to Naylor Leyland.]

1974 -

Naylor-Leyland Family, British (Nantclwyd Hall, Llanelidan, Denbighshire, Wales)

- 1978

Antiken Heinz Herzer (Munich, Germany), sold jointly to the Antikenmuseum und Sammlung Ludwig and the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1978.

- 1991

Antikenmuseum Basel und Sammlung Ludwig (Basel, Switzerland) and J. Paul Getty Museum, full ownership transferred to the J. Paul Getty Museum by exchange, 1991.

Beyond Beauty: Antiquities as Evidence (December 16, 1997 to January 17, 1999)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), December 16, 1997 to January 17, 1999
Ancient Art from the Permanent Collection (March 16, 1999 to May 23, 2004)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), March 16, 1999 to May 23, 2004
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
Transforming Tradition: Ancient Motifs in Medieval Manuscripts (September 23 to November 30, 2003)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), September 23 to November 30, 2003
Remembering Antiquity: The Ancient World Through Medieval Eyes (January 24 to May 28, 2017)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), January 24 to May 28, 2017

L'Orange, Hans Peter. "Eine unbekanntes Augustusbildnis," Dragma. Martino P. Nilsson A. D. IV Id. Iul. Anno MCMXXXIX Dedicatum. Lund: 1939, figs. 1-2, 4-5.

Curtius, Ludwig. "Ikonographische Beiträge zum Porträt der römischen Republik und der Julisch-Claudischen Familie, XII: Zum Bronzekopf von Azaila und zu den Porträts des jugendlichen Augustus," Römische Mitteilungen 55 (1940), 63, n. 3.

Zanker, Paul. Studien zu den Augustus-Porträts I: Der Actium-Typus, Abhandlungen der Akademie der Wissenschaften in Göttingen. Philologisch-Historische Klasse. Ser. 3, no. 85 (1973), 31, n. 40.

Christie's, London. Sale cat., July 10-11, 1974, lot no. 203.

Annual Report. Artemis, Société Anonyme (October 1978), pp. 14-15, ill.

Vierneisel, Klaus, and Paul Zanker. Die Bildnisse des Augustus: Herrscherbild und Politik im kaiserlichen Rom (ex. cat.), Glyptotek Muenchen, December 1978-March 1979; Antikenmuseum Berlin, April-June 1979. Munich: 1979, p. 75, cat. no. 6.10, ill.

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. 28-29, 121, no. 15, ill.

Jucker, Hans. "Iulisch-Claudische Kaiser- und Prinzenportraets als `Palimpseste'", Jahrbuch des Deutschen Archaeologischen Instituts 96 (1981), pp. 236-316, pp. 247-50; figs. 12-15.

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. 24; fig. 13.

Massner Ann-Kathrein. Bildnisangleichung: Untersuchung zur Entstehungs- und Wirkungsgeschichte der Augustusporträts (43 v. Chr. - 68 n. Chr.) Das römische Herrscherbild IV. (Berlin: Gebr. Mann Verlag, 1982), p.113, pl. 31b.

Fittschen, Klaus, and Paul Zanker. Katalog der römischen Porträts in den Capitolinischen Museen und den anderen kommunalen Sammlungen der Stadt Rom, I: Kaiser- und Prinzenbildnisse (Mainz: 1983, rev. 1994), 5 n. 5.

Schmaltz, Bernhard. "Zum Augustus-Bildnis Typus Primaporta," Mitteilungen des Deutschen Archaeologischen Instituts, Roemische Abteilung 93 (1986), pp. 211-243, p. 223, n. 33.

Berger, Ernst. in: Antikenmuseum Basel und Sammlung Ludwig: 120 ausgewählte Kunstwerke (Basel, 1987), 17, ill.

Boschung, Dietrich. Die Bildnisse des Caligula, Das römische Herrscherbild I.4 (Berlin, 1989), 48, n. 30.

Pfanner, Michael. "Ueber das Herstellen von Portraets. Ein Beitrag zu Rationalisierungsmassnahmen und Produktionsmechanism von Massenware im spaeten Hellenismus und in der roemischen Kaiserzeit," Jahrbuch des Deutschen Archaeologischen Instituts 104 (1989), pp. 157-257, fig. 31 a-b.

Boschung, Dietrich. in: Berger, Ernst. Antike Kunstwerke aus der Sammlung Ludwig III: Die Skulpturen (Mainz, 1990), 359ff., no. 251, ill.

Fittschen, Klaus. "Die Bildnisse des Augustus," in: Binder, Gerhard (ed.). Saeculum Augustum III (Darmstadt, 1991), 160, n. 52e.

Boschung, Dietrich. "Die Bildnistypen der iulisch-claudischen Kaiserfamilie." Journal of Roman Archaeology 6 (1993), pp. 39-79, pp. 145-46, no. 79; pls. 60 and 68.2.

Boschung, Dietrich. Die Bildnisse des Augustus, Das römische Herrscherbild I.2 (Berlin, 1993), 34f., 82, 84, 145f.; n. 56, 134, 137, 146, 150, 159, 472; cat. no. 79; pls. 60, 68.2.

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. 122-25, cat. no. 19.

Varner, Eric R. "Tyranny and Transformation in Roman Imperial Marble Portraits and Coins," Minerva 11, 6 (November/December 2000), pp. 45-49, p. 45; fig. 1.

The J. Paul Getty Museum Handbook of the Antiquities Collection (Los Angeles: 2002), p. 156.

Grossman, Janet Burnett. Looking at Greek and Roman Sculpture in Stone (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2003), pp. 84, ill.

Varner, Eric R. Mutilation and Transformation. Damnatio Memoriae and Roman Imperial Portraiture (Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2004), pp. 32-33, 226-27, fig. 19.

The J. Paul Getty Museum Handbook of the Collections. 7th ed. (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2007), p. 6, ill.

The J. Paul Getty Museum Handbook of the Antiquities Collection. Rev. ed. (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2010), p. 153.

Pollini, John, with William Storage. "Recutting Roman Portraits: Problems in Interpretation and the New Technology in Finding Possible Solutions." Memoirs of the American Academy in Rome 55 (2010), p. 40, p. 80, fig.34, p.82, fig.37, p.92, pl.3-6.

Prusac, Marina. From Face to Face. Recarving of Roman Portraits and the Late-Antique Portrait Arts. Monumenta Graeca et Romana 18 (Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2011), pp. 131-32, no. 6.

Fittschen, Klaus. Review of M. Prusac. From Face to Face: Recarving of Roman Portraits and the Late Antique Portrait Arts (Leiden, 2011). Journal of Roman Archaeology 25.2 (2012): 637-643, p. 643 [not recarved; but "Typenklitterung"].

Di Mauro, Alberto. Italy Art LA, educational brochure (Los Angeles: Italian Cultural Institute of Los Angeles, 2012), p. 24.

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