TOMASSO: The More a Thing is Perfect

TOMASSO: The More a Thing is Perfect

View full screen - View 1 of Lot 94. Bust of the Emperor Commodus as a Boy (AD 161-192).

Italian, 18th century, After the Antique

Bust of the Emperor Commodus as a Boy (AD 161-192)

Lot Closed

April 29, 02:34 PM GMT


70,000 - 100,000 GBP

Lot Details


Italian, 18th century

After the Antique

Bust of the Emperor Commodus as a Boy (AD 161-192)

white marble, on a mottled grey marble socle

71 cm., 28 in.

This beautifully carved marble bust of the Roman Emperor Commodus as a boy exemplifies the Grand Tour taste for high quality contemporary copies of celebrated ancient models. The marble is carved after a bust in the Capitoline Museums (inv. no. 454) which was discovered in the so-called Villa of Antoninus Pius, Lanuvium (Lanuvio), in 1701, and was subsequently in the collection of Cardinal Alessandro Albani.

The present bust is a superb example of its type with beautifully drilled curling locks of hair and sweeping folds of drapery, which have been emphasised by dramatic undercutting. The quality of execution is so high that it arguably justifies an attribution to the workshop of Bartolomeo Cavaceppi (1716-1799) who carved some of the finest copies of antique statuary at the end of the 18th century. Cavaceppi began his career as an apprentice to Pietro Stefano Monnot from 1729. He went on to restore some of the most famous antiquities in Rome, including the Fauno Rosso in the Capitoline Museums (inv. no. MC0657). Cavaceppi worked for Cardinal Albani and was a close associate of Winckelmann, Gavin Hamilton and Thomas Jenkins. Relatively few of his sculptures are signed, but, of those that are, the Bust of the Emperor Caracalla in the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles (inv. no. 94.SA.46), is a relevant comparison to the present bust.

Commodus was the eldest son of the philosopher Emperor Marcus Aurelius. He presided over a less expansionist period in Roman history, but his leadership style became increasingly dictatorial. Commodus re-founded Rome as 'Colonia Commodiana' and referred to himself as the new Hercules; the most famous portrait of Commodus is the remarkable bust in the Capitoline Museums in which the Emperor is presented in the guise of Hercules, draped in a lionskin headdress and holding a club. Commodus was drowned in his bath by his personal trainer Narcissus in December 192.

D. Walker, 'An Introduction to Sculpture in Rome in the Eighteenth Century' in E. P. Bowron and J. J. Rishel (eds.), Art in Rome in the Eighteenth Century, exh. cat. Philadelphia Museum of Arts, Philadelphia, and MFA, Houston, 2000, pp. 239-244