Augustus of Primaporta
Date ca. 20 CE
Provenance Villa of Livia at Prima Porta, Italy
Housed at Musei Vaticani, Braccio Nuovo, Rome
This particular work is likely a Roman copy of an original. Symbolic themes are heavily employed within this work to substantiate Augustus’ reign as emperor. The work negates the veristic styles of the Republic, returning instead to the grandeur of Hellenistic Greek and particularly that of Polykleitos’ Doryphoros. Cupid, serving as a strut support, affirms the emperor’s lineage from Venus through Aeneas of the Trojans, while the dolphin would have reminded viewers of his triumph over Marc Anthony and Cleopatra off the coast of Actium. His breastplate depicts Mars or Tiberius accepting Roman standards from the Parthians, surrounded by divinities and humans alike. Even his parting locks above his brow hearken to the likeness of Alexander the Great. Bare feet in contemporaneous sculpture would have signified a deity; therefore, it is likely that this work was made posthumously, as he would not have been so bold as to claim himself a god.