Porphyry on white marble pedestal.
Height: 30.8 cm; width: 17.8 cm; depth: 23.4 cm
Engraving on the reverse of the pedestal: “170” ; annotated on the left side of the pedestal in black fat pencil : “57”.
Provenance: Polignac collection
Exhibition: Le cabinet de l’amateur, organisé par la société des amis du Louvre en souvenir de Monsieur A-S Henraux, février-avril 1956, Paris, Orangerie des Tuileries, édition des musées nationaux, cat. 166.
The head proposed here is cut in a block of porphyry and represents the emperor Vitellius who reigned very briefly a few months of the year 69. This standard portrait considered formerly as that of the emperor has since been re-evaluated as the portrait of a patrician who lived in the Hadrian period, fifty years later. We recognize the model by its pose and in particular by the shape of its neck which sports a bulge forming a goiter.
The model to which our porphyry refers is an ancient Roman dating from the first half of the 2nd century, found around 1505 during excavations in Rome, on the Quirinal. Cardinal Domenico Grimani (1461 - 1523) quickly purchased this bust to integrate it into his collection of antiques. In 1523, Grimani bequeathed it to the Republic of Venice, thus bringing the work into the archaeological collections of the Serenissima where it is commonly titled Vitellius Grimani.
Vitellius having had a dissolved life, according to comments by Suetonius, many artists have had a fascination for the character inspiring many works from this bust. Tintoretto had a plaster of it and Veronese, Titian and even Palma the young used it as a model in some of their compositions. In fact, this renown is not surprising to find here a quality version, in porphyry, which can be linked to Italian sculpture from the very beginning of the Seicento without more precise geographic area.
Finally, a label under the pedestal recalls that it was exhibited in the Cabinet of the amateur in 1956 at the Tuileries orangery, in homage to Albert Henraux (1881 - 1953), collector, president of the higher council of the national museums and president of the society of friends of the Louvre. Everything suggests that our porphyry was in the collection of a member of the Polignac family without it being possible, in the state of our research, to establish the precise identity of the collector.
3 500 €