• Portrait of Livia, the wife of Emperor Augustus

    height: 34 cm

Portrait of Livia, the wife of Emperor Augustus

Ancient Rome, 14-29

Livia Drusilla (58 BC – AD 29) was the wife of Emperor Augustus. According to the Roman historian Tacitus, she was “a passionately devoted mother, indulgent wife and good helpmate in her husband’s cunning schemes…” Popular tradition in Antiquity attributed no few misdeeds to Livia: ambitious and domineering, she eliminated legitimate claimants to the throne and was involved in the deaths of Augustus’s grandsons Gaius and Lucius, obliging Augustus to adopt Tiberius, a son of Livia’s first marriage. Augustus is known to have placed great significance on the dynastic cult, within which a special place was allotted to women. Livia was venerated as Ceres, under the name Julia Augusta. Porticos and altars were erected in her honour. Portraits of the Empress appear on cameos and coins, as well as in allegorical scenes on monuments. The Hermitage bust depicts Livia as a priestess of the cult of Augustus. She is wearing a sacerdotal wreath of ears of grain, and a headband of woollen threads. As was customary in official portraits of Augustus’s reign, Livia is shown young and beautiful. Her face with its large eyes and refined chin accorded with Roman conceptions of feminine beauty. Her coiffure is reminiscent of ideal examples of Greek art. The facial features here are expressive and individual: an aquiline nose and widely spaced eyes that contrast with the tiny mouth that has thin tight-pressed lips. This family trait of appearance also occurs in portraits of Tiberius. This sculpture was made after Tiberius succeeded to the throne, when the Dowager Empress was between 72 and 87 years old.


Portrait of Livia, the wife of Emperor Augustus





height: 34 cm

Acquisition date:

Entered the Hermitage in 1850; transferred from Tsarskoe Selo

Inventory Number: