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Roman Glass Bust of Augustus

Antiquities - Roman

LOT 0104

GBP (£) 15,000 - 20,000
EUR (€) 17,120 - 22,830
USD ($) 20,690 - 27,580

Opening Bid: £13,500 (EUR 15,409; USD 18,619)
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Egypt, 1st century BC-1st century AD

A glass bust of the Emperor Augustus, of the Princeps type; youthful, idealised features, hair brushed forward in characteristic cow-lick locks to the forehead; pensive furrow to the brow; mounted on a custom-made marble base. 93 grams total, 50mm (2").

Very fine condition, small chip to right eye. Excessively rare, possibly only the fourth known example.

Property of a London gentleman since 2003; previously acquired from a private collection formed during the 1980s; accompanied by a five page analytical report by Dr. R. Neunteufel of Antiques Analytics GmbH, Institute for Scientific Authenticity Testing, Eppstein, Germany, which suggests a most probable late Egyptian date; also preliminary and subsequent reports by Michael Dennis O'Hara dated 5 March 2004.

For a similar example see The Graeco-Roman Museum, Alexandria, inv. no.3536. The present portrait bust is of the 'princeps' type, created during the first years of Augustus's rule as Emperor. Only a small number of glass portraits of Augustus are known, all of which seem to have been made in Alexandria, Egypt. This portrait of Augustus is a superb example of the power of images that was well known and utilised in the ancient world. The portraits of Augustus were set up all over the empire and portray him as always youthful, handsome and god-like; a type of image that was possibly borrowed from those of Alexander the Great. This bust was possibly owned by a high ranking official during the transitional period when Egypt became part of the Empire, and was a testimony of loyalty to the new regime. It is also possible that the image was set up in a shrine where it was worshipped as part of the emperor cult that served as a unifying factor among the provinces of the vast Roman Empire.

The Emperor Augustus was born Gaius Octavius Thurinus in 63 BC, to a rich equestrian family of Rome. At the murder of his maternal great uncle, Julius Caesar, Octavius was named in Caesar's will as his adopted son and heir. Augustus, Mark Antony and Marcus Lepidus formed the Second Triumvirate to defeat the assassins of Caesar. Following their victory at the Battle of Philippi, the Triumvirate divided the Roman Republic among themselves and ruled as military dictators. The Triumvirate was eventually torn apart by the competing ambitions of its members; Lepidus was driven into exile and stripped of his position, and Antony committed suicide following his defeat at the Battle of Actium by Octavian in 31 BC. With the deaths of Antony and Cleopatra, Egypt was absorbed into the Roman Empire, but recognised as the Emperor's personal possession; all members of the Senate and Imperial family had to seek personal permission from the Emperor to visit the country.

After the demise of the Second Triumvirate, Augustus restored the outward facade of the free Republic, with governmental power vested in the Roman Senate, the executive magistrates and the legislative assemblies. In reality, however, he retained his autocratic power over the Republic as a military dictator. By law, Augustus held a collection of powers granted to him for life by the Senate, including supreme military command, and those of tribune and censor. It took several years for Augustus to develop the framework within which a formally republican state could be led under his sole rule. He rejected monarchical titles and instead called himself Princeps Civitatis ('First Citizen of the State'). The resulting constitutional framework became known as the Principate, the first phase of the Roman Empire.

The reign of Augustus initiated an era of relative peace known as the Pax Romana. The Roman world was largely free from large-scale conflict for more than two centuries. Augustus dramatically enlarged the Empire, annexing Egypt, Dalmatia, Pannonia, Noricum and Raetia; expanding possessions in Africa; expanding into Germania; and completing the conquest of Hispania. Beyond the frontiers, he secured the Empire with a buffer region of client states and made peace with the Parthian Empire through diplomacy. He reformed the Roman system of taxation, developed networks of roads with an official courier system, established a standing army, established the Praetorian Guard, created official police and fire-fighting services for Rome, and rebuilt much of the city during his reign. Augustus died in AD 14 at the age of seventy-five.

Tuesday 22nd May 2018 to Sunday 27 May 2018: Ancient Art, Antiquities & Coins

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Lot No. 0104

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Auction Catalogue

Auction Venue:
Crystal Room,
May Fair Hotel,
Stratton Street,
London, W1J 8LT

Viewing from noon Monday 21st May 2018
Champagne Reception: 6pm - 9pm

Tuesday 22nd May 2018 (Day 1)
10am : Lots 1 - 520

Auction Venue:
The Court House
363 Main Road
Harwich, CO12 4DN

Auctions start 10am BST (Lunch 1.30 - 2pm)
Wednesday 23rd May 2018 (Day 2)
Lots 550 - 1190
Thursday 24th May 2018 (Day 3)
Lots 1191 - 1831
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Lots 1832 - 2472
Saturday 26th May 2018 (Day 5)
Lots 2473 - 3109
Sunday 27th May 2018 (Day 6)
Lots 3110 - 3217
Lots 3300 - 3903

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