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Farnese Collection -Sculptures and Roman portraits

Among the most interesting pieces displayed in this section, there is the colossal statue of Julius Caesar of Trajan date, the so-called Agrippina, a colossal bust of Vespasian, a bust of Hadrian with cuirass, a portrait of Caracalla, and the colossal statue of Alexander Severus shown in heroic nudity.

History and formationFrom the very beginning of Renaissance collecting, one of the fundamental themes in ancient collections was represented by images of Roman emperors, depicted both on coins and gems, and in sculptural portraits. Until the mid-sixteenth century, precedence was given to characters of the Republican period, whose actions and qualities were a source of inspiration for the illustrious members of the great noble houses, while greater emphasis was subsequently placed on the figures of the emperors, who as symbols of absolute power, were more in keeping with the spirit of the period. Compared to other collectors, the Farnese family could count on the valuable assistance of their librarian and antiquarian Fulvio Orsini who was not only the instigator of various important acquisitions but also created the foundations for the study of ancient iconography, which led to several publications. By comparing iconographic evidence, especially on coins but also from portraits and gems, Orsini attempted to reconstruct the faces of the most famous characters from antiquity and, despite some mistakes in identification, many of his conclusions are now considered to be correct. The numerous sculptural portraits in the Farnese Collection, many of which are of excellent quality, were displayed mainly in the most important rooms of the Farnese Palace - the Sala Grande and Sala degli Imperatori. However, other pieces, including some very important ones, were arranged in other study and state rooms. When the collection was moved to Naples, many of the pieces underwent restoration work: various busts and supports linked to the portrait-heads were replaced by the sculptor Carlo Albacini, while several torso wearing cuirasses were matched with the wrong heads. This has caused many difficulties in the identification of the portraits belonging to the Farnese Collection. RouteAmong the most interesting pieces displayed in room XXIX of the museum, is the colossal statue of Julius Caesar of Trajan date, taken from the Spolia Christi, the area of the markets and the Forum of Trajan, and the so-called Agrippina, a type that derives from a bronze female statue of a seated deity, probably Aphrodite, made in the mid-fifth century BC and attributed to Phydias or Alcamenes. Other important works include a colossal bust of Vespasian, a bust of Hadrian with a cuirass, a famous portrait of Caracalla, and the colossal statue of Alexander Severus shown in heroic nudity.

Further information
Collection data
Bibliography:

Palais Farnese; Classicismo 1988; Farnese 1995a; Farnese 1995b; De Caro 1994; De Caro 1999.

Location: Ground floor; room XXIX