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Gallo Roman Pottery Head of Bearded Male - Royal Athena

Gallo Roman, Gaul (a region that includes present day Northern Italy, France, Luxembourg, Belgium, most of Switzerland, parts of Netherlands, and Germany on west bank of the Rhine), Imperial Period, ca. 2nd to 5th century CE. A finely modeled pottery head presenting a likeness that may represent Emperor Macrinus who reigned from April 217 until June 8, 218 - during a period of extensive political upheaval, when Roman emperors were named by the military rather than the Senate. The portrait's close-cropped curly hair, full beard and mustache, and serious expression comprised of large eyes, a prominent nose, a furrowed brow, and pursed lips closely resemble coin portraits of Macrinus and another sculpted head believed to represent Macrinus at Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum (1949.47.138). Size: 4" W x 5.375" H (10.2 cm x 13.7 cm); 8.375" H (21.3 cm) on included custom stand.

Interestingly, the sculpture at Harvard displays losses to the eyes and nose, which the curatorial description claims may have resulted from "damnatio memoriae" as Macrinus eventually became an "enemy of the Roman people". (https://www.harvardartmuseums.org/art/291724) The visage of the example featured here is in a better state of preservation, despite being a section from a larger sculpture.

Macrinus (full name Caesar Marcus Opellius Severus Macrinus Augustus - original name Marcus Opellius Macrinus) held the distinct honor of being the first man to rule the Roman Empire without having attained senatorial status. As a prefect under Emperor Caracalla (reigned 211 to 217), Macrinus purportedly inspired the murder of Caracalla by an officer which occurred when Caracalla was fighting the Parthians. Three days later, the army named Macrinus the emperor. His inconclusive battle with the Parthians resulted in a peace agreement that was not popular in Rome. Following the treaty, there were pay cuts for the soldiers, and legions were summoned from Europe for the Parthian war in Syria. Simultaneously, Julia Maesa spread a rumor that her grandson Bassianus (Elagabalus) was actually Caracalla’s natural son. Unhappy with Macrinus’s policies, the Gallic Third Legion then instated Elagabalus as emperor in 218. Macrinus promptly fled to Italy with his remaining forces. Eventually he was defeated in a battle near Antioch, captured, and executed.

Condition: A section from a larger sculpture. Surface wear with some abraded areas and losses to high pointed details and neckline, but details are relatively vivid compared to other depictions of Emperor Macrinus - see discussion of the Harvard University head in the extended description for this piece.

Provenance: private Florida collection acquired at Royal Athena Gallery, New York, New York, USA

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