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Bust of Caligula as general

Category: .

Materials & Technique: white marble; sculpture

Provenance: Ancient Florentine family residing abroad


The sculpture represents the Emperor Caligula, laurelled crowned and with war armor. The crown has a slightly inclined position on the head of Caligula, starting from the back of the neck and ending above the hairs. The leaves have a narrow shape and they all converge toward the point of the crown. Two strips of woven fall from the crown on the Emperor’s head with a smooth drapery. Hairs are shorts, graven in bands on the side of the head, while they are graven in a radial form on the back of the head. The baldness on the temples is represented with naturalist style. Ears are graven with the pinna very close to the temples and with rounded lobes. The forehead is large and spacious with no signs of wrinkles (the emperor was murdered when he was 29). The brow ridges are small and cut toward the outside; eyes are rounded, large and dilated. The nose is straight, even if considerable size. The cheekbones are pronounced and together with the sunken cheeks give a severe expression to the Emperor. The mouth is not large and the lips are thin and sharp. The chin is slightly prominent but not boxy. The head is turning toward the right side, following the scheme fixed by the Alexander the Great of Praxiteles (widespread in all the statues of Caligula “imitatio Alexandri“). The neck is strong and muscular, but proportionate.

The armor represented here is a loricata anthropomorphic. This type of armor was reserved to the general of the Roman army. Indeed, Caligula is represented as general of the Roman army. In the frontal part is represented the “Gorgoneion”, that is a gorgon’s head depicted frontally. This item was originally a horror apotropaic pendant representing the head of a Gorgon. However, it was also frequently used as Aegis, as exemplified by the “Gonzaga Cameo”.

On the shoulders are represented some decorative strips, with rectangular shapes, raised edges and tripartite endings. Above the arms (absents) is represented a covering made of leather strips. The military clothing is very common for Roman emperors; moreover Caligula had a very strict relation with the military world. His name derived directly from the shoes of the legionaries, called “calighe”. He use to wear this type of shoes when he was younger visiting the Legionaries camps.

The statue has undergone a restoration in the ancient times, with the integration of a fragment of the right wing of the crown that had been lost. The integration is evident because the marble used is of a different color, more yellowish.


Style and considerations

This loricate statue of Emperor Gaius Julius Caesar Germanicus Caligula reveals a mixture of Classical and Hellenistic traits, expertly mixed. The reference values followed for this artwork are those of the classical Greece with a reference to Kalokagathia. The shape and proportions of the body remind to the policletea Doryphorus. To this classical approach, is added a formal language of Hellenistic tradition. The face expressions and the anatomic shape of the armor contrast with the Classical style, where a ritual nudity prevails. The bust of Caligula should have been made by the sculptor Nicolas Coustou commissioned by the King of France in 1696 a.D. for  gardens of Versailles.



Heraklion Archeological museum, Gortina, Caligola

Palazzo della Signoria, Iesi, Caligula.

NY Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen, Ritratto di Caligola Puer

Luvre, Juliu Cesar, 1696, opera di Nicolas Coustou


Adorno, 1985, L’arte italiana.

Bianchi Bandinelli – Paribeni, 1976, L’arte dell’antichità classica, Grecia.

Bianchi Bandinelli – Paribeni, 1976, L’arte dell’antichità classica, Etruria – Roma.

Boschung, 2005, Gens Augusta.

De Vecchi – Cerchiari,1999, I tempi dell’arte.

Kleiner, 1992, Roman Sculpture.

Hallett Christopher  H., 2005The roman nude, Heroic portrait statuary 200 bc – ad 300

Gagetti  E.,Preziose sculture di età ellenistica e romana, 2006


State of preservation

Fragmentary. The body, the arms, the lower torso and the legs are missing.


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