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Gallery Text

Rome’s first emperor, Augustus (r. 30 BCE–14 CE), wanted his descendants to rule over the Roman Empire, but as his chosen successors died one by one, the power fell to his stepson, Tiberius (r. 14–37 CE), who had been a capable general but was reportedly often at odds with his family. The broad forehead seen here, topped with a neat row of comma-shaped locks (see also coin 8), continues a trend in early imperial dynastic portraiture, modeled on that of Augustus (coin 6), to create an artificial family resemblance in an attempt to solidify dynastic succession. This portrait can be dated to early in the third decade CE, when Tiberius was in his early sixties. Although the depiction continues the idealized youthfulness of Augustus’s portraits, Tiberius’s age is betrayed by deep furrows along his cheeks and his hollow mouth and eyes.

Identification and Creation

Object Number
Emperor Tiberius
Work Type
sculpture, head
22-23 CE
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World, Europe
Roman Imperial period, Early
Persistent Link


Level 3, Room 3700, Ancient Mediterranean and Middle Eastern Art, Roman Art
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Physical Descriptions

Greek mainland marble, probably Pentelic
35 cm h x 24 cm w x 26 cm d (13 3/4 x 9 7/16 x 10 1/4 in.)


Recorded Ownership History
Photius Therapiddes, (by 1963), sold; to Harvard University Department of Classics and Fogg Art Museum, 1963.

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, David M. Robinson Fund and Alice Corinne McDaniel Fund, Department of the Classics
Accession Year
Object Number
Asian and Mediterranean Art

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Published Catalogue Text: Stone Sculptures: The Greek, Roman and Etruscan Collections of the Harvard University Art Museums , written 1990

Head and Start of the Right Shoulder of the Emperor Tiberius (A.D. 14—37)

The head is turned slightly to the right and downward. Areas with damage include the nose, lips, and the right side of the chin. There is some chipping on the ears and eyebrows and some surface pitting. The head was worked for insertion into a statue.

The type of face and arrangement of hair is a conflation of known Tiberius portraits and should be dated in the early 20s, when the Emperor was about sixty to sixty-five years old. The most popular group of portraits of this period, A.D. 22—23, is the Clementia Tiberii group, so named by Luigi Polacco (Il volto di Tiberio, Padua, 1954) from the coins. The Jovian statue of Tiberius in the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen (no. 538) found in an exedra with three niches at the shrine of Diana at Nemi, and evidently set up with similar statues of Germanicus (no. 644) and Drusus Jr. (no. 529), shows, how this Harvard head and start of the right shoulder would have looked as part of a heroic, half-draped figure intended for veneration. Vagn Poulsen deduced that the Nemi triad, with an altar in front of the hemicycle with its rectangular niches, was dedicated after the death of Germanicus in A.D. 19 and before the death of the younger Drusus in A.D. 23.

Cornelius Vermeule and Amy Brauer

Publication History

  • "Acquisitions", Acquisitions (Fogg Art Museum), ed. John Coolidge, Fogg Art Museum (Cambridge, 1964), p. 114, half plate, p. 26
  • Cornelius C. Vermeule III, "Greek, Etruscan and Roman Sculptures in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston", American Journal of Archaeology (1964), 68, pp. 102, 123, figs. 10a, b
  • Cornelius C. Vermeule III, Greek and Roman Sculpture in America, University of California Press (Berkeley and Los Angeles, CA, 1981), p. 286, no. 243
  • Anne-Kathrein Massner, Bildnisangleichung, Das Romische Herrscherbild Abt. IV, Mann (Berlin, Germany, 1982), pp. 148, note 421, 150
  • David Gordon Mitten and Amy Brauer, Dialogue with Antiquity, The Curatorial Achievement of George M. A. Hanfmann, exh. cat., Fogg Art Museum (Cambridge, MA, 1982), p. 15, no. 48.
  • Klaus Fittschen and Paul Zanker, Katalog der romischen Portrats in den Capitolischen Museen und den anderen kommunalen Sammlungen der Stadt Rom, I, Verlag Philipp von Zabern (Mainz, Germany, 1983), p. 14, note 8, i in list
  • Cornelius C. Vermeule III and Amy Brauer, Stone Sculptures: The Greek, Roman and Etruscan Collections of the Harvard University Art Museums, Harvard University Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 1990), p. 147, no. 135
  • Dennis Horton, The Land of Achaia, Biblical Illustrator (Spring 1992), Vol. 18, No. 3, pp. 16-19, pp. 16-19, ill.
  • Diana E. E. Kleiner and Susan B. Matheson, ed., I, Claudia: Women in Ancient Rome, Yale University Art Gallery (New Haven, 1996), p. 55, no. 4.

Exhibition History

  • Dialogue with Antiquity: The Curatorial Achievement of George M.A. Hanfmann, Fogg Art Museum, 05/07/1982 - 06/26/1982
  • I, Claudia: Women in Ancient Rome, Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, 09/06/1996 - 12/01/1996; San Antonio Museum of Art, San Antonio, 12/20/1996 - 03/02/1997; North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh, 04/06/1997 - 06/15/1997
  • Roman Gallery Installation (long-term), Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 09/16/1999 - 01/20/2008
  • Gods in Color: Painted Sculpture of Classical Antiquity, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 09/22/2007 - 01/20/2008
  • 32Q: 3700 Roman, Harvard Art Museums, 11/16/2014 - 01/01/2050

Subjects and Contexts

  • Google Art Project

Verification Level

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of Asian and Mediterranean Art at