Fragment of a Head of Commodus



Fragment from a life size head, portrait of the emperor Commodus as a very young man. The head was turned to the right as it appears from the preserved part of the neck. The fragment includes the whole back of the head and the forehead with left eye. His hairstyle consists of very curly, tousled locks, of which two fall onto the forehead, which is high and domed. The ears are free of any hair. The portrait may be of the 3rd portrait type of Commodus Typus Busti 368, recvognised from the 3 small front hair curls at the back forming a separate unit. The type may have been created to celebrate the Emperor's accession to the throne in 180 AD. The Ince portrait similar to the copy in the Vatican museums, Sala dei Busti 368. The lower part of the face, found in the stores at Villa Adriana at Tivoli (Villa Adriana inv. 558) , was identified by Dr. Klaus Fittschen in 1986, thus forming a portrait of Commodus when he was 16-19yrs old. The photograph shows the original fragment in Liverpool alongside a modern plaster cast of Villa Adriana inv.558. The face was removed in the 18th century probably because the portrait was destroyed in antiquity in the practice of defacing Imperial portraits (damnation memorae). The 18th century restorer valued a high quaslity hairstyle of the late 2nd to 3rd century AD and must have removed it from the damaged original portrait. Many portraits of Commodus were found in the excavations of Cardinal Albani at Netturno from where Blundell acquired the sculpture.