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Monday, November 5, 2012

A Man Becomes a Legend: Augustus of Primaporta

Augustus of Primaporta dates back from the Early Roman Empire in the first century. “The depiction of Augustus portrays him as a victorious general making a speech. He is posed in the traditional contrapposto manner: his right leg is placed firmly forward while his left leg is bent and the heel slightly-raised. Augustus’ right arm is stretched out in a noble and controlled Roman gesture and is counter-balanced by the slightly-bent left leg. Combined with these idealized features of strength and beauty, there are also personal features of Augustus: a broad cranium, deep-set eyes, sharp ridges in his brow, a well-formed mouth and a small chin. Furthermore, his face depicted in the manner of Apollo was meant to associate Augustus’ abilities with those of the powerful god. Thus, Augustus wanted to portray himself as a perfect leader with flawless features, personifying the power and authority of the emperor who had the capacity to stabilize a society and an empire" (Museos Vaticanos). 
The work demonstrates the creative combination of church and state as well as illustrates the the use of propaganda by roman emperors to come. This idealistic sculpture captures his youthful essence and importance as a leader. When this was made in his honor, Augustus was a rather old man.  However he is obviously shown in his prime. The magnificent art piece really encompasses the significance he had in structuring the Roman regime. He is represented as larger than life; Augustus was much greater than a simple human being. His stance shows his authority and the position he held. On the other hand, his bare feet represent a man walking on sacred land.  In a way, this demonstrates the divine lineage Augustus was came from.  The depiction of Cupid riding a dolphin next to his right leg makes a reference to the entitlement of his, the Julian, family.  Shown on his breast plate are also many depictions which display his significant importance. The cornucopia is held by the personification of the earth showing the wealth and abundance Augustus brought with his reign, the personification of Caelus, the sky, links him with the heavens and the earth.

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