Republican Roman ”Bust of a Man” vs. Imperial Roman “Portrait of Emperor Caligula”

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  • Published : December 16, 2012
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Art100Brielle Kane
Republican Roman ”Bust of A Man” vs. Imperial Roman “Portrait of Emperor Caligula”

Two portraits, that of a Man and of Emperor Caligula, can be found in the same gallery in Metropolitan Museum of Art, which suggests that both of the busts were created in the same period of time. This, in turn, suggests that they must be stylistically similar, though not exactly the same. At the same time, the portrait bust of a Man was created by either Antonine or Severan at the dusk of the second century, almost two hundred years later that the bust of Caligula. It is apparent to conclude that there must be some difference in the way the creators conveyed the images of the two persons due to development of skills and styles in time.

The portrait of Caligula is, in my view, a propagandistic work, created not to visually please but rather to impress and as a carrier of a message of political power. A depiction of political figures aimed for propaganda was typical throughout the history and this bust serves the same purpose. Caligula was a powerful figure with a very distinct character and unlimited power, which, as we will see, is consciously shown on this work. The portrait of a Man, on the other hand, cannot be attributed to the political influence, and is, therefore, a work of creativity and intended as a realistic depiction of a person. It is not supposed to carry any message or be idealized due to political reasons. As a result, we may derive that the work of Antonine/Severan is more true to life than that of Julio-Claudian due to its purpose (realistic versus propagandistic) and due to the fact that the latter one was created earlier in the era.

The realism of the bust of a Man can be traced by paying attention to the details. The first thing that catches the eye is the difference in the depiction of hair. Caligula is shown with a very idealistic, perfectionist hairline and curls. The hair on the bust of the Emperor looks more like a...
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