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Faustina 150-175 AD

RCIN 1299

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This marble bust is a portrait of Faustina the Younger, consort of the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius. She is depicted wearing a tunic with a palla, or wrap, arranged over her shoulders, and with her hair parted in the middle and brushed backwards to the sides forming rows of waves and gathered in a low bun at the back. Her head is slightly turned to the right, thus conveying a sense of authority. Images of imperial personages were used as propaganda to promote the values and interests of the ruling dynasties, and were widely disseminated throughout the Roman empire. Judging by the hairstyle and her mature appearance, this depiction of Faustina is thought to be related to images from her seventh official portrait which dates from 161AD. This marble portrait bust was purchased by Charles I together with the portrait of Faustina’s husband, Marcus Aurelius (RCIN1296). The busts came from the Gonzaga collection in Mantua and they were sold by Duke Vincenzo II of Mantua to Charles I some time after 1625. It is thought that the marble portrait bust of a youth with a wreath and the portrait of Antinous (RCIN 1297 and 1298 respectively), also came from this collection. 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. After his execution in 1649, Charles I’s collection was dispersed or sold, and in the preceding years of Civil War, from 1642, many of the works were damaged during anti-royalist riots, as it is the case with these marble portraits. When the monarchy was restored in 1660, Charles II revived his father’s tradition for collecting antiquities and during a diplomatic visit to the Dutch Republic that year he was presented with a Roman marble portrait bust of a lady (RCIN1295), also in the Royal Collection. These six Roman marble portraits remained unnoticed for a period of almost two hundred years until they were re-evaluated in 1934 and put on display as a group, first in the Orangery and later on in the Stone Hall, at Hampton Court Palace.