- Museum number
Marble bust of a youth wearing a mantle; inscription on the base.
- Production date
- 140-150 (circa)
Height: 83.15 centimetres
- Curator's comments
The portrait is closely based on representations of the young Marcus Aurelius (Marcus Aurelius Type A). The unidentified sitter may have served on the board of Roman magistrates mentioned in the inscription as a preliminary step towards a senatorial career.
The bust was found in the Villa of Sette Bassi outside Rome. Five other marbles from this site are in the British Museum collection.
For the portrait, see:
K. Fittschen, Prinzenbildnisse antoninischer Zeit (Mainz 1999), 82 no. 21 pl. 139.
For the Villa of Sette Bassi and Gavin Hamilton's excavation there, see:
R. Neudecker, Die Skulpturenausstattung roemischer Villen in Italien (Mainz 1988), 207-209 cat no. 50.1.
I. Bignamini and C. Hornsby, Digging and Dealing in Eighteenth-Century Rome (London 2010), 134-140 [this sculpture p. 136 no. 1].
Cook 2013, nr. 138:
‘A bust of a young man, draped with the toga; on the plinth is the following inscription DECEMVIRI • STLITIBVS • IVDICANDIS which indicates, that the Decemvirs, appointed to judge in law causes, erected this bust to him; it was found by Mr Gavin Hamilton in ye ruins, now called Roma vecchia, situated about half way betwixt Rome & Frascati.’ (TY 12/3, library 21).
Townley’s identification of the bust as C. Claudius Marcellus, the nephew and intended heir of Augustus (ST 2, library 24; GR 2, library 31; argued in detail in TY 12/5, library 22) depended on his misunderstanding of the date. A proposed identification as Commodus was denied by Wegner, who suggested an unknown young man of about AD 170. It has more recently been identified as M. Aurelius when a young man [Hübner, Neudecker].
The discovery of the bust was announced by Hamilton in a letter dated 28 October 1774 (TY 7/573). Hamilton wrote further on 23 December that Jenkins had wanted the piece but had been refused (TY 7/577). Jenkins’s version was that he had been promised first refusal of all finds made by Hamilton, who had then broken his word. Jenkins was nonetheless satisfied that Townley was to have it (letter dated 11 February 1775, TY 7/342).
The bust was charged at £120 in Hamilton’s account dated 23 January 1775 (TY 8/109, the price confirmed in TY 10/5-7; TY 12/1; TY 10/3, fo. 32; ST 1, fo. 21r). At this time Hamilton was experiencing some difficulty in getting permission to export some of his finds. On 24 January 1775 he admitted to Townley that he had had to ‘smugle’ the Decemvir, with the aid of a bribe to Bracci, the papal antiquary, ‘as you will observe by note of charges, but we save in duty, upon the whole it is the safest and best methode’ (TY 7/577). The bust was eventually shipped in no. 1 of a consignment of six cases (letter dated 15 February 1775, TY 7/581).
Date and identification:
Youthful Commodus? (Hinks) – no (Fittschen); hair, cf. portraits of M.Aurelius in Farnborough and Petworth.
CIL VI.1579: Marcellum credunt sororis Augusti filium. Hübnero contra videtur esse M. Aurelius adolescens, cuius aetate respondere iudicat litterarum formas. CIL itself prefers unidentified.
Made ca. 140-50 (label); 150-60 (Neudecker)
* Townley drawing 2010,5006.129, annotated ‘Metz del.’.
- Synopsis of the Contents of the British Museum (1808) VI.69.
- Ancient Marbles of the British Museum, X, pl. 16.
- A Guide to the Graeco-Roman Sculptures in the Department of Greek and Roman Antiquities (Synopsis of the Contents of the British Museum) (2 vols., London 1874 [2nd ed. 1879] and 1876), I, no. 22.
- Smith, IIIA. H. Smith, A Catalogue of Sculpture in the Department of Greek and Roman Antiquities, British Museum, Vol. III (London 1904), no. 1940.
- R. P. Hinks, Greek and Roman Portrait Sculpture (London 1935), 30, pl. 39.
- R. Neudecker, Die Skulpturenausstattung römischer Villen in Italien (Mainz am Rhein 1990), 208, no. 50.1.
- Klaus Fittschen, Prinzenbildnisse antoninischer Zeit (Beiträge zur Erschlieβung hellenistischer und kaiserzeitlicher Skulptur und Architectur 18, Mainz 1999), 82 no. 21, pl. 139 a-d.
- Not on display
- Acquisition date
- Greek and Roman
- Registration number