A Roman marble portrait bust of Gaius Caesar sold today at Bonhams
Antiquities auction in London for twice its presale estimate - £374,500 now heads home to Italy with it new owner.
Madeleine Perridge, Head of Antiquities at Bonhams, comments: It seems so appropriate that this wonderful 2,000 year old bust is returning to its home, where it was once used to bolster the power of Augustus Caesar. The bust is a beautiful piece with a very sad history. It was created just after the death of Lucius, when Gaius was the last grandson and heir remaining. It shows a young man with everything ahead of him, but who tragically dies aged just 23, only two years after the death of his younger brother. His death was a real destruction of everything Augustus had been working towards, trying to preserve his heritage. It tells the story of two lost princes, once presented as heirs who would firm up the dynasty, but then all of a sudden they die.
Gaius Caesar (20 B.C. -A.D. 4) and his brother Lucius Caesar (17 B.C. - A.D. 2) were the sons of the Emperor Augustus' only child Julia and his close confidant Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa. With no sons of his own, the Emperor adopted them in 17 B.C. and they were intended as Augustus' successors. However both these grandsons died young, predeceasing Augustus who died in A.D. 14.
Gaius Caesar died aged just twenty-three in A.D. 4 and during his short life Gaius and his younger brother played extremely important roles in Augustus' political and dynastic plans. Official images of Augustus's grandsons were produced from their childhood and these were deliberately calculated to depict the princes as miniature versions of their illustrious grandfather.
One of a small group of such portraits, the bust being sold by Bonhams, depicts Gaius with his head turned to the right, with finely carved wavy hair falling over the forehead, long sideburns and a short beard. It is thought that Gaius sideburns and beard have a military connection, associated with the god of war Ares/Mars and that this bust was made to commemorate Gaius' military success in A.D. 3 at the fall of Artagira in Armenia, where he tragically suffered the wound which was to eventually kill him, aged just twenty-three, only two years after the death of his younger brother.