Description Portrait busts and heads of Greek and Roman philosophers and emperors, not necessarily ancient, graced well-rounded collections of antiquities during the 1500s and 1600s. They were kept at hand as inspirational examples of noble, manly virtue, balancing the human skull, which was an object of Christian meditation on humility. This handsome head is characteristic of the type that was created in the 1500s to respond to the desire of the educated for such a head but not acquire an ancient example. Aside from its artistry, this head might have been treasured as evoking the emperor and philosopher Marcus Aurelius (reigned 161–80) as a young man. Scholars are not now certain that this head represents Marcus Aurelius, but it is modeled in subtle, naturalistic detail in the “antique manner.” Within the subsequent history of collecting, in the early 1600s, Marcus Aurelius was greatly admired for trying to live the Greek ideal of the philosopher king, expressed in his "Meditations" on the nature of virtue. The Flemish painter Peter Paul Rubens (1576–1640) owned a bust of him and included it in the portrait of the scholar Jan-Gaspar Gevartius (1593–1660) in his study, writing a commentary on the "Meditations."
|12/31/1969||Examination||Examined for condition; X-ray fluorescence|
- Antiquity in the Renaissance. Smith College Museum of Art, Northampton. 1978.
- The Allure of Bronze. The Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore. 1995.
Provenance Henry Walters, Baltimore, 1916 [mode of acquisition unknown]; Walters Art Museum, 1931, by bequest.
Credit Acquired by Henry Walters, 1916
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