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'False' Portraits of Antiquity
#1
Anyone doing a Google search on Galla Placidia, daughter of Theodosius and de facto ruler of the west in the earlier 5th century, will probably find (besides lots of pictures of her mausoleum in Ravenna) this portrait, supposedly showing the Augusta and her family:

   

It's a wonderful image - and appears on the cover of more than one recent biography - but unfortunately it does not show Galla Placidia... It's a gilded glass medallion portrait of an unknown family group, probably 3rd-early 4th century, later used as the centrepiece of a 7th century cross.

This interesting article by Jasper Burns discusses the mysterious portrait and makes some guesses about what it might show (is one of the figures a ghost??)

The real Aelia Galla Placidia appears on this 5th century medallion, although we don't know how 'generic' the portrait might be:

   

Anyway - I was wondering how many other well known portrait images of figures from ancient Rome are (probably) not really who they are supposed to be. The only one that springs to mind is the bust of 'Julius Caesar' found in the Rhone at Arles (and still displayed under that name in the museum there). But I'm sure there must be plenty of others.

Can anyone suggest any in particular?
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#2
Oh yeah, that same painting pops up if you google Valentinian III, along with this (3rd?) century Bust:

http://skepticism-images.s3-website-us-e...an-iii.jpg
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#3
(03-05-2017, 01:21 AM)Flavivs Aetivs Wrote: along with this (3rd?) century Bust:

Is it certainly 3rd century? The head looks rather late 4th-5th to me; I think perhaps it's been mounted on a replica 'body' at some point, perhaps not Roman at all...
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#4
Maybe. I think it's a bust of Valentinian I.
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#5
(03-06-2017, 01:01 AM)Flavivs Aetivs Wrote: I think it's a bust of Valentinian I.

You could well be right.

It is difficult identifying late imperial portraits, as so many of them are quite generic.

Another popular misidentification, though, might be the supposed portrait of Maximian from Piazza Armerina:

[Image: 3-242x300.jpg]

The figure in the centre does resemble one of tetrarchs (perhaps Diocletian?) - but I would say this is certainly not an imperial portrait. Tetrarchic emperors were portrayed as semi-divine beings, often larger than the men surrounding them. This guy, on the other hand, is clearly very mortal.

Besides which, the mosaic is on the floor - not the place to put the portrait of a godlike emperor. Slaves might step on it...!
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#6
(03-06-2017, 12:14 PM)Nathan Ross Wrote: Besides which, the mosaic is on the floor - not the place to put the portrait of a godlike emperor. Slaves might step on it...!

Apart from guess if it's an emperor or not (given te rest of the villa and the troops, it might), I see no problems with its position. Gods are very often portrayed in mosaics - nobody seemed to mind they are on the floor either.
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#7
(03-07-2017, 02:50 PM)Robert Vermaat Wrote: Gods are very often portrayed in mosaics - nobody seemed to mind they are on the floor either.

That's a good point.

Although I think the mosaic images of gods etc tend to be in mythological type scenes, rather than being objects of reverence in a temple or shrine. Was there a difference?

I would expect that a living emperor, being an embodiment of imperial cult (and especially with the later emperors being surrounded by such ritualised veneration) would not have been depicted as a rather ordinary grizzled man, on the floor... I suppose we could assume that Maximian himself owned the villa, but why would he have chosen to portray himself as part of the floor decoration?

This may well be a portrait, but if so I think it's more likely a local personage or a friend or retainer of the villa owner, rather than being the emperor. But we will surely never know!
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#8
We forgot one - the Monza diptych that possibly shows Stilicho, his wife and son. But that's not for certain.
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Robert Vermaat
MODERATOR: Forum rules
FECTIO Late Roman Society
THE CAUSE OF WAR MUST BE JUST
(Maurikios-Strategikon, book VIII.2: Maxim 12)
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#9
(03-07-2017, 04:47 PM)Robert Vermaat Wrote: the Monza diptych that possibly shows Stilicho, his wife and son.

Aha, yes - famous one!

There's also the portrait of the 'pseudo Seneca', although I think most people are aware of that one by now...
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#10
(03-07-2017, 04:36 PM)Nathan Ross Wrote: I would expect that a living emperor, being an embodiment of imperial cult (and especially with the later emperors being surrounded by such ritualised veneration) would not have been depicted as a rather ordinary grizzled man, on the floor... I suppose we could assume that Maximian himself owned the villa, but why would he have chosen to portray himself as part of the floor decoration?

This may well be a portrait, but if so I think it's more likely a local personage or a friend or retainer of the villa owner, rather than being the emperor. But we will surely never know!

Even if it was 'just' the (very) rich villa owner, I think it's safe to assume that the position (on the floor) was not a negative aspect, but rather there for all to see.
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Robert Vermaat
MODERATOR: Forum rules
FECTIO Late Roman Society
THE CAUSE OF WAR MUST BE JUST
(Maurikios-Strategikon, book VIII.2: Maxim 12)
[Image: artgroepbutton.jpg]
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#11
(03-07-2017, 04:47 PM)Robert Vermaat Wrote: We forgot one - the Monza diptych that possibly shows Stilicho, his wife and son. But that's not for certain.

Eh... yes and no.

See, it could be Stilicho's Consulship of 400 or Aetius' Consulship of 432. Those are the only two possibilities and the evidence does point towards Aetius in some respects, as Stilicho's son Eucherius would have been much older but Aetius' first son Carpilio would have been the right age (and his wife in that image is his first wife, although she was dead by 432 which proves also to be an issue). The jewelry on the wife of the figure has 2 necklaces of pearls, a style which appears exclusively at the time of the reign of Valentinian III (first appearing on coins that depicted Placidia, Eudoxia, and Honoria), and the tiara over the head of the larger figure on the shield medallion also points to the medallion being a female and a male, not two imperial brothers, since Augusti were always depicted with a Taenia and no additional headgear. Finally, of course, the style of the Diptych is most similar to the consular Diptych of Felix in 428, in fact they may have well been the same artist.
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#12
(03-24-2017, 03:21 AM)Flavivs Aetivs Wrote: See, it could be Stilicho's Consulship of 400 or Aetius' Consulship of 432.

Like I said we don't know. Plenty of issues with either explanation.
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#13
The difference though is that it's not really a false portrait since it is plausibly attributable to either figure, unlike that 3rd century painting being used to show Valentinian III and Placidia.
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#14
Is it? It's still conjectury, we can't be 100% sure about that attribution either can we? I mean - why not Bonifatius? Or someone similar in that position between say 400 and 450? There must be more candidates than Stilicho and Aetius for sure?
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Robert Vermaat
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FECTIO Late Roman Society
THE CAUSE OF WAR MUST BE JUST
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#15
Bonifatius' son Sebastian was a grown man, and Boniface was never granted a Consulship.
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