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Grave Relief of Publius Curtilius Agatus, Silversmith
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Bruce White Photography
This image is available for download, without charge, under the Getty's Open Content Program.

Unknown
Roman, Italy, A.D. 1 - 25
Marble
31 7/16 x 23 1/16 x 12 1/2 in.
96.AA.40

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"Publius Curtilius Agatus, freedman of Publius, and silversmith" reads the inscription on this Roman funerary relief. Portraits such as this one were placed in the facades of family tombs lining the roads out of Rome, advertising the social and professional status of the deceased to all who passed by. The portrait's format and style are typical of the funerary reliefs commissioned by freed slaves. Beginning in the 100s B.C., slaves were brought to Rome in large numbers. Like Publius Curtilius Agatus, many slaves were skilled professionals; he appears here in his role as a silversmith, making a small cup. Portraits of freed slaves in this period often show a combination of styles. The face of Publius Curtilius Agatus, with hollow cheeks, furrowed brow, and deep naso-labial folds, harks back to a "warts and all" style of portraiture favored by nobles in the Roman Republic. The hair, however, is an up-to-date Augustan court style. In portraits like this one, freed slaves used an aristocratic but old-fashioned visual vocabulary to express their new status as Romans.