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Portrait of a Young Man, on a modern bust

Roman art

In 1828, this bust was reported along with fifteen others displayed on shelves in the portico of the Palazzina Borghese.

The portrait, which is set on a modern bust, depicts a young man with an elongated face, clearly defined eyes and protruding eyelids. The distinctive hairstyle, with long straight locks split over the forehead, is reminiscent of imperial portraiture from the Trajanic period, to which the Borghese head can be dated.


Object details

inizi II secolo d.C.
white marble
altezza col busto cm 45; altezza della testa cm 20

Borghese Collection, reported in 1828 in the portico of the Palazzina with other busts, and individually in 1957 (Archivio Apostolico Vaticano, Arch. Borghese 348, Galleria e Museo. Titoli diversi, fasc. 33, 1828, c. 6r; Calza p. 14, no. 136). Inventario Fidecommissario Borghese, 1833, C., p. 41, no. 9. Purchased by the Italian State, 1902.

Conservation and Diagnostic
  • 19th century - ​Restoration of the ears and nose
  • 1990–91 - I.C.R.
  • 2008 - Consorzio Capitolino di Elisabetta Zatti ed Elisabetta Caracciolo


This portrait, which is set on a modern bust, portrays a lean young man with his head turned slightly to the right. The face is triangular in shape, narrowing towards the chin, with a low forehead covered with long locks of straight hair that divide in the middle in a swallowtail part. The locks on the rest of the head are barely defined. The large eyes are marked by thick, heavy eyelids and framed by broad brows. The full lips of the mouth are closed.

The facial features and the hair, in particular the long, compact locks, are reminiscent of imperial portraiture from the Trajan period, as seen in two comparable heads in the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen (Gross 1940, pp. 85, 92, no. 35, pl. 16a). It also shares notable affinities with a bust in the Vatican Museum that portrays a younger boy with a triangular face and oblong eyes (Hekler 1912, p. 235).

The sculpture was reported in the Palazzina Borghese in 1828: ‘In the Portico of the above-said Casino […] No. 16 Busts on as many shelves’ (Archivio Apostolico Vaticano, Arch. Borghese 348, Galleria e Museo. Titoli diversi, fasc. 33, 1828, c. 6r). In 1893, Venturi noted in his guide that there were fourteen busts on the shelves (p. 12). In the literature, it is generally described along with the other busts displayed in the portico, without a detailed description. In 1957, Calza was the first to describe it individually: ‘Portrait bust of a young man, from the Trajanic period’ and questioned its authenticity (p. 14, no. 136). Moreno, who agreed with the dating to the Trajanic period, particularly due to the hairstyle, noted the good state of preservation and that the surface had been reworked (Moreno, Viacava 2003, pp. 62–63, no. 6).

Giulia Ciccarello

  • A. Venturi, Il Museo e la Galleria Borghese, Roma 1893, p. 12.
  • A. Hekler, Greek and roman portraits, New York 1912, p. 235.
  • W. H. Gross, Bildnisse Trajans, 1940, pp. 85, 92, n. 35, tav. 16a.
  • R. Calza, Catalogo del Gabinetto fotografico Nazionale, Galleria Borghese, Collezione degli oggetti antichi, Roma 1957, p. 14, n. 136 (figura erroneamente indicata come 137).
  • P. Moreno, Museo e Galleria Borghese, La collezione archeologica, Roma 1980, p. 6.
  • P. Moreno, A. Viacava, I marmi antichi della Galleria Borghese. La collezione archeologica di Camillo e Francesco Borghese, Roma 2003, pp. 62-63, n. 6.
  • Scheda di catalogo 12/00147876, P. Moreno 1975; aggiornamento G. Ciccarello 2020.