Marble Roman emperor statue commands $515,000 at Sotheby's

A monumental marble statue of Roman emperor Lucius Verus has sold as top lot in Sotheby's auction of Egyptian, Classical and Western Asiatic Antiquities, held on June 5 in New York.

Roman marble emperor statue
Only the torso of the statue is original, with the rest added in the late 18th century

Selling at $515,000 against a $400,000-600,000 estimate, the statue was created circa the mid-1st century AD, but then restored in the 18th or early 19th century.

The statue was first recorded in 1832, three years after it was acquired by the Duke of Buckingham from the Braschi family collection in Rome. The Braschi family collection was one of the most important holdings of ancient Roman artefacts of its day.

However, a detailed inventory of the Braschi collection was made in 1816, yet the statue was not listed among its treasures - at least in its present state.

With obvious restoration work undertaken, it is thought that at this point the statue was actually just an ancient cuirassed torso, the final entry in the inventory.

It is uncertain why the torso was restored as a statue of Lucius Verus (AD 130-169), with the Antonine emperor known as a fair civil servant and capable soldier, but little else.

It is thought his likeness may have been deemed desirable due to his association with the so-called "adoptive emperors", who include greats such as Marcus Aurelius, whom Verus served alongside as co-emperor.

Caligua cameo
A $425,000 cameo once owned by Napoleon. A ring set with an Egyptian stone cameo that also belonged to Napoleon sold for over $127,000 in April

Also featuring was a sardonyx cameo of Caligula and Antonia Minor, which sold for $425,000 against a $300,000-500,000 estimate.

The finely carved piece is thought to have once belonged to Napoleon Bonaparte, with his testament - opened on his death in 1821 - recording a gold snuffbox decorated with a similar cameo, which was later given to his son Lucien Bonaparte.


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