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Classical male bust 125-175 AD

RCIN 1297

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This Roman marble portrait bust of a Youth with a Wreath was acquired by Charles I. Formerly in the Gonzaga family collection in Mantua, it was sold to Charles I by Duke Vincenzo II of Mantua circa 1625. The marble portrait depicts a Roman youth with windswept hairstyle endings in a fringe of locks above the forehead and with a laurel wreath (symbol of the youthful god Apollo) encircling the head, tied at the back with a fillet. It has been suggested that the hairstyle is reminiscent of the first official portrait of Marcus Aurelius when a young boy, an image that was imitated for contemporary depictions of male youths. The date has been assigned to the 2nd century AD, in the late Hadrianic or early Antonine period. The head has been set on a later bust with a chlaymis, a short mantle, arranged over the left shoulder and fastened with a brooch. During his reign, Charles I put together an important collection of classical antiquities. Five outstanding Roman marble portrait busts (RCIN 1296, 1297, 1298, 1299 and 1300) dating from the 2nd century AD, which once belonged to Charles I, remain today in the Royal Collection. In a period when collecting antiquities became fashionable - although it remained exclusive to the very wealthiest because of the cost and rarity of the pieces - Charles I intended to imitate the grand collections of Renaissance princes in the continent.