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Head of the Young Marcus Aurelius (?)
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Head of the Young Marcus Aurelius (?)

Description Conservation Exhibitions Provenance Credit
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. This handsome head is characteristic of the type that was created in the 1500s to respond to the desire of the educated who would have liked to own such portraits but were perhaps not in a position to 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 CE) as a young man. Scholars are not now certain that this head was intended to represent Marcus Aurelius, but in any case it is modeled in subtle, naturalistic detail in the “antique manner.” During the 16th and 17th centuries in Europe, 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.
Date Description Narrative
12/31/1969ExaminationExamined 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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ca. 1540 (Renaissance)
Accession Number
H: 13 1/4 in. (33.6 cm)
  • Italy (Place of Origin)


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