The first Roman Emperor
Augustus as Pontifex Maximus, c. 20 BC. Photo: Museo Nazionale Romano, Rome
Organised to mark the 2000th anniversary of his death on 19 August 14 AD, the exhibition presents the stages in the story of Roman’s first emperor Augustus (63 BC – 14 AD). Augustus was the adopted son and great-nephew of Julius Caesar (100 – 44 BC). His reign lasted over forty years and was the longest in Roman history and the Empire achieved its moment of greatest expansion. The exhibition in Rome shows a selection of approximately 200 exhibits of the highest artistic quality. The show offers visitors the opportunity to track the life and career of the princeps in parallel with the development of a new artistic culture and vocabulary that is still today the very foundation stone of Western civilisation. The visual pivot of the exhibition comprises the celebrated statues of Augustus, brought together here for the very first time: Augustus as Pontifex Maximus, and the Augustus of Prima Porta. This latter sculpture is set alongside its classical model, the famous Doryphoros, the standard par excellence of sculptural perfection in the Classical era. Visitors will also be able to admire part of the bronze equestrian statue of the emperor found at the bottom of the Aegean sea. .
Evoking the flowering of a golden age, the so-called Grimani bas-reliefs depicting wild animals suckling their young are outstanding for their importance and their beauty, and they have been brought together for this exhibition. Also of outstanding importance is the group of the Niobids, an original Greek sculpture from a temple front which was set up in the Horti Sallustiani in Rome under Augustus and which has been reconstructed by setting the two statues from the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek in Copenhagen alongside the statue of an injured girl from the Museo Nazionale Romano. The sculptural groups, expressing the new Classicism, are matched by such dazzling examples of decorative art as a large selection of pieces of silver from the treasure of Boscorealeand by representations of power in images of the ancient world as a set of extremely precious cameos, that were used by members of the imperial family as personal gifts. The exhibition winds up with an reconstruction of eleven bas-reliefs from a public building originally erected in Campania to commemorate Augustus after his death, telling to great effect the story of a naval clash at the battle of Actium in 31 B.C.