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Some Portraits in the Round Re-cut from Caligula to Claudius

Joe Geranio

As you know after Caligula was murdered in 41 A.D. the portraits in the round were removed , smashed or re-cut.  I wanted to show the high number of extant portraits in the sculptural round that still exist.  This will be a work in progress as I sift through my research I am continually amazed at portraits on not only full size portraits that were re-cut of Caligula in all medium, including gems and cameo's, as well as epigraphic inscriptions.  The focus today is on cameo's and sculptural portraits. I believe when the Senate tried to portray Caligula as a hostis and a official "damnatio memoriae"  Claudius stopped this from happening.  As Barrett points out in his book, which I agree, Claudius would not have set a precedent for regicide where the same thing could be justified happening to him, and the fact that theplebs  and/or  the normal populace would have been angered.  Caligula enjoyed a certain popularity with this class and why would Claudius want to alienate or anger them? The statues and portraits of Caligula would have been removed, smashed or mutilated by unhappy Roman citizens, or re-cut.  This was done mainly for economical reasons and would have helped along with the quick transitions of Newly created images of Claudius Caesar.   I have found most of these photos that are re-cut from the museums without any mention of it being re-cut or possibly being re-cut. So, hundreds of tourist still label their photos as Claudius Caesar, there is a great work that has been done on some of these portraits by Prof. Eric Varner, "From Caligula to Constantine: Mutilation and 

Transformation:  Damnatio Memoriae and Roman Imperial Portraiture"  (Michael C. Carlos Museum; First Edition- Jan. 2001).

Caligula Re-cut into Claudius Caesar- (courtesy of J. Poggi)

                                                                                                                     Caligula Re-cut into Claudius Caesar- (courtesy J. Poggi)

This first portrait comes to us from the Museo Archaelogico in Maremma Grosetto and at first glance by looking at the full frontal portrait we see the facial (physiognomy) of emperor Claudius, as we look closer we then can see the fringes of the hair on the frontal that are clearly Caligulan,  His hair, as well as some of his brothers Nero and Drusus Julius portraits has a split in the middle and the typical curl which is lined up with the inner part of the right eye. I could and will one day get more into the complete hairstyle and how German and other art historians look at identifying portraits very differently. Some weigh style of hair over facial agreements, but that will be left for another day.

Caligula Re-cut to Claudius Caesar- (courtesy J. Poggi)

This portrait from Istanbul, Turkey has always been labeled as Claudius Caesar, but here we can not only see a Caligulan hairstyle, but the physiognomy and facial features of Gaius Caligula.  


                                                                                                                                   Caligula re-cut to Claudius Caesar- (Courtesy John Lee)

This colossal head from the Vatican Museum on Rome is very interesting but not totally unique.  The Lips and lower Jaw seems Claudian, but where we really know and can see this is a re-cut is the two distinct layers of front hair fringe?  The undercutting on the lower fringe is Claudian and the upper is Caligulan, as proof of the center curl again and then the curl above the right inner corner of the eye.

Claudius Cameo Re-cut from Portrait of Caligula

Again on this cameo portrait we see the double front fringe again, and know it is a re-cut from Caligula.  This is from Kunsthishistorisches, Vienna.  The work that went into this small object must have been difficult, but even more difficult would have been to start afresh with a new portrait.

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