Bust of a Young Roman

Ancient Rome, 99-103

This portrait of a youth dates from the time of Trajan (AD 97–117), and it bears a very strong resemblance to depictions of that emperor. Marcus Ulpius Traianus came from a small Roman settlement in Spain and began his career as an ordinary legionnaire. Trajan was known for his conquests, as a result of which the Roman Empire reached its greatest extent, stretching from the British Isles to the Persian Gulf. The tremendous riches that flowed into Rome from the occupied territories enabled Trajan to embark on a colossal amount of construction. The Emperor was extraordinarily popular. Trajan’s personality, as an outstanding military commander and ruler, had a great influence on the style of official art. His plain, resolute face became a model for imitation in the depiction of statesmen and private individuals. The Classicism of the Julio-Claudian era and the Baroque effects of the Flavian age gave way to a simplified style reminiscent of the creations of the Republic. Iron will, courage and strength are the qualities of the personage depicted in the portrait. Pliny reported that Trajan possessed immense physical strength and incredible powers of endurance. He had a superb mastery of arms and steadfastly bore all the hardships of life on campaign. When he came to power, Trajan delivered Rome from a plague of informing: charges of lese majesty were dropped and denunciators were “put on board hastily knocked-together ships and left to the mercy of the waves.” His government of the Empire was marked by decisiveness and common sense. The Senate, which Trajan treated with respect, awarded him the title optimus princeps – “the best ruler”.


Bust of a Young Roman





height:48 cm

Acquisition date:

Entered the Hermitage in 1862; originally in the Marquis Campana collection in Rome

Inventory Number:





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