This is the head of Drusus, son of the Roman emperor Tiberius, from a sculpture of him that would have been carved around A.D. 23, the year he died (allegedly at the hands of his wife). Last week, the Cleveland Museum of Art announced that it had acquired the work, which is a fair bit larger than life. (There’s also a chance the purchase will stir a tiny bit of controversy.) Drusus died before he succeeded his father – which is just as well, since he was famous for enjoying spectacles and tortures so bloody, they shocked even Roman sensibilities. One of this head’s most important details is almost invisible: It bears faint traces of the colored paint that would originally have been used to make all classical statues into fully realistic figures. The “Roman sobriety” we see in these all-white art works may be a modern invention. (See the feature I once wrote about color in ancient sculpture.)
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