Sculpture Journal

Reviews

Sculpture Journal (2014), 23, (3), 403–414.

Abstract

Reviews Augusto Scuderie del Quirinale, Rome, 18 October 2013–9 February 2014; Grand Palais, Paris, 19 March–13 July 2014 Eugenio La Rocca, Claudio Parisi Presicce, Annalisa Lo Monaco, Cécile Giroire and Daniel Roger (eds), Augusto (exh. cat.) Milan, Electa, 2013, 333 pp., 385 illustrations, 32 euros. ISBN 978883709607-0 1. Augustus of Prima Porta, marble, first century AD, marble, h. 207 cm. Vatican Museums, Vatican City (inv. 2290) (photo: Wikimedia Commons) Like the last exhibition in Rome to Augustus, in 1937–38, the Augusto exhibition at Rome’s Scuderie del Quirinale celebrated an event: his death, the 2,000th anniversary of which was on 19 August 2014. The exhibition was one of numerous cultural events, conferences and exhibitions on the first Roman emperor (http:// augustus2014.com/2014-events/). This exhibition (also shown in Paris with the title ‘Moi, Auguste, Empereur de Rome’) impressively drew objects from the Vatican Museums and other museums throughout Italy and abroad including the Louvre, British Museum, Kunsthistorisches in Vienna and Ny Carlsberg in Copenhagen. Despite the extraordinary loan of key objects, the design and layout of the show in Rome missed an opportunity to highlight new interpretive modes of display, especially for ancient Roman sculpture and material culture. However, the exhibition provided an ideal opportunity for scholars to study the objects closely and make comparisons. The lighting, for the most part, was well adjusted for viewing the varying surface qualities of the marbles: from powdery, weathered (or acid-bathed) surfaces to those that were highly polished or painted. The first section of the exhibition presented portraiture, from colossal and full-length statues to heads and gems. The second section included sculptures related to cult images, polychrome terracotta panels from public buildings, 403 | Sculpture Journal 23.3 [2014] fragments found in the Forum of Augustus, silverware, including pieces from the Louvre’s Boscoreale treasure, red ware and their press-moulds, the so-called Grimani Reliefs brought together for the first time, and the Medinaceli/Actium Reliefs. Media and typology determined the placement of objects (all portrait heads together, all gems together, all silver together, etc.). A chance was thus missed to juxtapose diverse three-dimensional objects to evoke the interaction between the various arts of the Augustan world. In terms of display, one of the most successful rooms was dedicated to portrait heads. Nothing frustrates scholars of Roman portraiture more than not being able to see these in profile and from the back. The room opened with the fragmentary bronze equestrian statue of Augustus from Athens, exhibited in Italy for the first time. Then, chronologically related portraits were set together at varying angles and installed on curved island bases in the centre of the room. The movement of visitors activated the portraits: as heads appeared to turn previously obscured profiles came into view, as if looking through a crowd. The placement allowed visitors to move around the portraits, providing a stunning panorama of the most important visages from the time of Augustus: the emperor himself, Livia, and his extended family. Agrippa’s portrait from the Louvre stood out in its rugged vigour when viewed across from the soft rendering of Pompey from Venice. The striking differences in quality, expression and facial details in the various portraits of Octavian/ Augustus were also showcased. The highlight of the exhibition was the room dedicated to the Augustus of Prima Porta, the Naples Doryphoros and the Augustus as Pontifex Maximus, on view together for the first time. The confrontation between Augustus’ portraits in the two statues highlighted the properties of Greek marble to convey the powerful gaze of the first emperor, whose portrait-type embodied the contradictory qualities of youthful vitality and experience. Besides the opportunity to compare the Prima Porta statue with the Doryphoros, which were placed side by side, the display also allowed visitors to see the backs doi:10.3828/sj.2015.11

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