Roman / Portrait head of the emperor Constantine I / ca. 324?337Roman
Portrait head of the emperor Constantine I
ca. 324?337

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Creator Nationality: European; Southern European; Roman
Creator Name-CRT: Roman
Title: Portrait head of the emperor Constantine I
View: Principal view
Creation Start Date: 324
Creation End Date: 337
Creation Date: ca. 324?337
Object Type: Decorative Arts and Utilitarian Objects
Materials and Techniques: marble
Dimensions: H. 37 1/2 in. (95.2 cm)
Description: Surviving portraits of Constantine the Great, like this one, were made between his assumption of sole power in 324 and his death in 337. They typically show the emperor with a similar hairstyle, which is sometimes ornamented with the jeweled diadem he adopted after 324. The cap of hair is thick and arranged in a small number of full comma-shaped locks across his forehead, which recall the hairstyles in portraits of the emperors Augustus and Trajan. This particular head depicts Constantine with pronounced cheekbones as in his youthful likenesses. His face is smooth and his large eyes, with carved pupils and irises, are surmounted by arched brows with individually delineated hairs that add texture to his face. The nose is prominent and the mouth curved. The upraised eyes of the first Christian emperor express a spiritual orientation that would have been anathema to Trajan's essentially secular image. This colossal head surmounted an enormous statue of the seated emperor, who may have sat impassively with a globe in one hand and scepter in the other, as he did in a statue in the basilica at Rome bearing his name . Constantine's appropriation of the portrait type of Trajan is echoed in other forms of art: erotes were eventually transformed into angels, and sarcophagi with philosophers bearing ancient texts were transformed into sarcophagi with Christ and the Scriptures. The adaptation of classical forms to Christian purposes is a story that begins to unfold in the early fourth century A.D. and continues until the Italian Renaissance.
AMICA Contributor: The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Owner Location: New York, New York
ID Number: 26.229
Credit Line: Bequest of Mary Clark Thompson, 1923
Copyright: Copyright ? 2002 The Metropolitan Museum of Art . All rights reserved.
Style or Period: Late Antique period
Style or Period: Constantinian
AMICA ID: MMA_.26.229
AMICA Library Year: 2002
Media Metadata Rights: Copyright (c) 2002 The Metropolitan Museum of Art. All Rights Reserved

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