The J. Paul Getty Museum

Portrait Head of Commodus

Object Details


Portrait Head of Commodus






Rome, Lazio, Italy (Place Created)


A.D. 182–190



Object Number:



32.7 cm (12 7/8 in.)

Credit Line:

Gift of Michael R. Milken

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Object Description

A well-preserved portrait head of Commodus. The head was carved for placement into a statue. A large cavity has been carved out from the underside with notches underneath the ears for placement into another member. A cement binder is preserved inside the cavity. The head is slightly over life size with typical portrait features of Commodus. The eyes are heavily lidded with deep lines between the upper lid and the brow. The lower lids are thin, the irises incised and the pupils drilled. The facial features are subtly modeled with shallow grooves around the eyes and between the nose and cupid-bow lips. The beard and hair are a mass of thick curls. The beard is rendered in comma-shaped locks articulated by a running drill. There is also extensive use of the running drill in the hair. Thick lobster-claw locks fall above the forehead with globular locks with much drilling around them cover the rest of the front of the head. The back and top of the head are rendered in far less articulated large globular curls and no drilling. There is a good deal of undercutting in the hair, giving it a sense of volume. The portrait is carved from a fine-grained gray-white marble and highly polished. There is some incrustation in the hair. Significant damage is confined to the proper left side of the nose, the brow over the right eye and a few curls on the left side. There is minor damage on the right eye and left brow.

- 1977

Summa Galleries (Beverly Hills, California)

1978 - 1983

Michael R. Milken (Los Angeles, California), donated to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1983.

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
The Getty Commodus: Roman Portraits and Modern Copies (December 18, 2008 to June 1, 2009)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Villa (Malibu), December 18, 2008 to June 1, 2009

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. 61.

Frel, Jirí, and Zdravko Barov. Conservation of Antiquities. Antiquities in the J. Paul Getty Museum. Pamphlet 3. May-July 1978, no. 3.

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. 78-79, 128, no. 63, ill.

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. 153; pls. 31, 31a-b. Cited as 78.AA.5.

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), 84, no. 12 (as L.78.AA.5), Beilage pl. 57.

Goette, Hans Rupprecht, "Zwei frühseverische Bildnisse in Bonn," Bonner Jahrbücher 184 (1984) pp. 117-40, pp. 124-26, no. 2, figs. 11-13.

"Acquisitions/1983." The J. Paul Getty Museum Journal 12 (1984), p. 238, no. 28.

Vermeule, Cornelius. " Faces of Empire; Julius Caesar to Justinian." The Celator 19, no.12 (December 2005), p. 37, fig 20.