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Marble statue of a youth on horseback

Prince on horseback, possibly Caligula, Rome, 1 - 50 AD

  • Roman boy on horseback

    Roman boy on horseback

 

Height: 6.750 ft (approx.)

Formerly in the del Bufalo and Farnese collections, Rome

GR 1864.10-21,2 (Sculpture 1886)

Great Court

    Marble statue of a youth on horseback

    Roman, made in Italy AD 1-50

    Possibly a prince of the Roman imperial family

    The statue portrays a young man mounted on a horse: he is shown heroically naked except for his military cloak (paludamentum). The statue was found in or near Rome in the sixteenth century, was then restored by Giacomo della Porta, and from 1652 stood in the Palazzo Farnese. Restorations include the youth's arms and three of the horse's legs.

    Statues of mounted individuals (equestrian statues) such as this were not common in antiquity, so the subject was clearly a person of some importance. The boy's facial features and hairstyle resemble those of members of the Julio-Claudian dynasty of Roman emperors, in particular the emperors and princes of the first half of the first century AD. When the sculpture first entered the Museum it was identified as a portrait of the emperor Caligula or Gaius (AD 37-41) in his youth. Later it was thought that the head might not belong to the body, and that the body itself dated to the mid-later second century, representing, perhaps, one of the imperial princes of that period. During recent cleaning, however, it was observed that the marble of the head of the youth and the unrestored parts of the horse were the same. This has raised once more the possibility that horse and rider belong and indeed represent a Julio-Claudian prince.

    Y. Ascher, 'A rediscovered Antonine marble horseman', Antike Kunst-1, 43 (2000), 102-9

    A.H Smith, A catalogue of sculpture in -2, vol. 3 (London, British Museum, 1904)

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