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Portrait of a Julio-Claudian Prince, on a modern bust

Roman art

This portrait, set on a modern bust, is mentioned in the Palazzina Borghese for the first time in 1828, as one of the works selected to be restored by the sculptor Massimiliano Laboureur. The figure wears an absorbed expression, emphasised by deep nasolabial furrows and a wrinkled brow. His hair is arranged in dense, wavy locks, with a short fringe that extends and expands at the temples. This hairstyle is typical of the portraiture of Julio-Claudian princes, in particular Germanicus. The sculpture, which is restored, is datable to the early first century CE.

Object details

inizi del I secolo d.C.
white marble
height with bust cm 65; height head cm 28.

Borghese Collection, mentioned in Room VIII of the Palazzina in 1828 (Moreno, Sforzini, 1897, p. 361). Inventario Fidecommissario Borghese, 1833, C., p. 53, n. 176. Purchased by the Italian State, 1902.

Conservation and Diagnostic
  • 1830s - Massimiliano Laboureur, missing parts filled in with plaster and marble: the nose and the surface of the head, which seems to have been completely reworked, with visible brush marks. Placed on modern bust.


This male portrait is set on a modern cuirassed bust. The figure is wearing a mantle called a paludamentum, which is fastened with a circular fibula over the right shoulder. We can make out the fringed folds of the right shoulder of the cuirass and the hem of the tunic can be glimpsed beneath it. The head is in the shape of an elongated oval and slightly turned to the left. The figure’s clean-shaven face wears a tense, concentrated expression, emphasised by the slightly furrowed brow beneath the broad, square forehead, the protruding cheekbones and the deep lines to the sides of the nose. His thin eyebrows are slightly turned downward, the tear duct of his smooth eyes was defined with a drill, and he has heavy eyelids. He has a small, closed mouth with deep, slightly downturned corners. His hair is arranged in wavy locks that start from a whorl at the top of his head and come down over his forehead in a short, regular fringe, lengthening in front of the ears.

The style of the fringe, worn in dense contiguous locks that diverge above the right eye and puff out slightly at the temples, was generically inspired by the portraiture of Julio-Claudian princes. In particular, the sculpture seems to share similarities with the known iconography of Germanicus, as he appears in a portrait found in Gabii and now in the Louvre (Ma 1238: Martinez 2004, p. 88, no. 0131) and one in the Glyptotek, Copenhagen (Johansen 1995, II, pp. 128–129, no. 52). The Borghese portrait, the surface of which was heavily reworked with a drill, is datable to the early first century CE.

The Borghese bust is mentioned in a letter sent by Minister Giuseppe Gozzani to Prince Camillo Borghese in 1828, where it is listed among the works chosen to be restored by the sculptor Massimiliano Laboureur. The sculpture, which was subsequently placed in Room VIII, was described as a ‘Testa di Germanico’ (Head of Germanicus) and judged ‘probabilmente moderna’ (‘probably modern’; Moreno, Sforzini, 1897, p. 361). In 1841, Nibby labelled it a ‘busto incognito’ (‘unknown bust’; p. 924, no. 12). Calza considers it to be heavily restored and dates it to the Julio-Claudian period (p. 14, no. 119).

Giulia Ciccarello

  • Indicazione delle opere antiche di scultura esistenti nel primo piano del Palazzo della Villa Borghese, Roma 1840, p. 25, n. 12.
  • A. Nibby, Roma nell'anno MDCCCXXXVIII, IV, Roma 1841, p. 924, n. 12.
  • Indicazione delle opere antiche di scultura esistenti nel primo piano del Palazzo della Villa Borghese, Roma 1854 (1873), p. 28, n. 5.
  • A. Venturi, Il Museo e la Galleria Borghese, Roma 1893, p. 48.
  • G. Giusti, La Galerie Borghèse et la Ville Humbert Premier à Rome, Roma 1904, p. 33.
  • P. Della Pergola, La Galleria Borghese in Roma, Roma 1954, p. 22.
  • R. Calza, Catalogo del Gabinetto fotografico Nazionale, Galleria Borghese, Collezione degli oggetti antichi, Roma 1957, p. 14, n. 119.
  • P. Moreno, C. Sforzini, I ministri del principe Camillo: cronaca della collezione Borghese di antichità dal 1807 al 1832, in “Scienze dell’Antichità”, 1, 1987, pp. 339-371, in part. p. 361.
  • F. Johansen, Catalogue Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek. Roman Portraits, II, Copenhagen 1995, pp. 128-129, n. 52.
  • P. Moreno, A. Viacava, I marmi antichi della Galleria Borghese. La collezione archeologica di Camillo e Francesco Borghese, Roma 2003, p. 253, n. 244.
  • J. L. Martinez, Les antiques du Musée Napoléon. Edition illustrée et commentée des volumes V et VI de l'inventaire du Louvre en 1810, Paris 2004, p. 88, n. 0131.
  • Scheda di catalogo 12/01008541, P. Moreno 1979; aggiornamento G. Ciccarello 2020.