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Lot 0067
Roman, Imperial period, ca. 212 to 217 CE. A detailed portrait bust of Emperor Caracalla (formerly Antoninus who ruled from 198 to 217 CE), expertly carved from marble of cream hues with a marvelous red patina, and presenting a "take no prisoners" countenance - quite befitting of this legendarily bloodthirsty ruler. His nickname, Caracalla, was rooted in the notion that he allegedly designed a new type of cloak of that same name. Here he is shown wearing that cloak, his head turned slightly to his right, his hair shortly cropped and delineated with countless curls, a characteristically short beard, and possessing a serious expression with a furrowed brow, a steadfast gaze looking toward the left with skillfully rendered eyes showing drilled pupils and articulated lids, a pronounced nose, and pursed lips. Quite imposing and lifelike, this portrayal is reminiscent of other known sculptures of Caracalla such as one in the Metropolitan Museum of Art (40.11.1a) Size: 9" H (22.9 cm); 11.75" H (29.8 cm) on included custom stand.

This bust of Caracalla's most definitely reveals his character. Even though he and other emperors of the Severan period tried to tie themselves symbolically to the Antonine emperors who came before to gain legitimacy, Caracalla who was evidently a bit of a rebel forewent the long locks and thick beards of his predecessors in favor of the shorter military cut. In life, he is remembered as a brutal ruler, one of the worst tyrants of the Roman era, who massacred his own people and favored the military over all other aspects of Roman life. In the 18th century, French artists revived his memory to draw parallels between his tyranny and that of Louis XVI. This said, his more positive accomplishments include his colossal baths in Rome as well as the Edict of 212 which granted citizenship to all free inhabitants of the empire.

Actual Roman busts of Caracalla are considerably rarer than those created during the Renaissance and Baroque periods. Note that busts inspired by the Roman style in later periods have sold at Christie's for considerable prices. For example, though larger, a 16th to 17th century marble bust of Caracalla inspired by the ancient portrayals sold for GBP 52,500 ($63,573.66) at Christie's London (2 December 2014, Lot 16) - https://www.christies.com/lotfinder/Lot/a-marble-bust-of-caracalla-after-the-5853873-details.aspx.

Provenance: private East Coast, USA collection; ex-William Froelich collection, New York and California (USA) and Saba (Caribbean), acquired in the 1970s

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Old losses to underside of cloak. Chip/loss to periphery of cloak on verso. Red hues of the marble patina are due to being in the vicinity of iron-rich earth.

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Impressive Roman Marble Bust of Caracalla

Estimate $15,000 - $25,000Feb 21