Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Head of Augustus

Roman Period, Augustus
reign of Augustus
27 B.C.–A.D. 14
From Egypt; Possibly from Memphite Region, Memphis (Mit Rahina)
H. 7.7 cm (3 1/16 in.); W. 6 cm (2 3/8 in.); D. 6.5 cm (2 9/16 in.)
Credit Line:
Purchase, Edward S. Harkness Gift, 1926
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 137
This small head is thought to depict the Roman Emperor Augustus. Based on Roman prototypes for his portrait, it is dated to the earlier part of his long reign. Egyptian influence may be present in the suggestion of loose flesh beneath the prominent cheekbones.

The original context of the head is uniknown, but Memphite provenance would reflect the importance of the traditional religious capital in Augustus's political domination of the country. A cult of Augustus existed there, and the High Priest of Ptah of Memphis, the most important official in the country's traditional religious structure, was chosen as its chief officiant, the "prophet of Caesar." This appointment was surely intended to encourage the cooperation of the country.
Acquired by Lord Carnarvon (d. 1923). Carnarvon Collection purchased by the Museum from Lady Carnarvon, 1926.

Richter, Gisela M. A. 1948. Roman Portraits. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Hill, Marsha 2000. "Roman Egypt." In The Year One: Art of the Ancient World East and West, edited by Elizabeth J. Milleker. New Haven: Metropolitan Museum of Art, p. 88, fig. 68; p. 207.

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