Historical Portraits Picture Archive

''The Young Octavian'' Bust of the Emperor Augustus (63BC-14AD) 1800c.

Antonio Canova, Studio of 1757 - 1822

''The Young Octavian'' Bust of the Emperor Augustus (63BC-14AD), Antonio Canova, Studio of
18th Century
20 inches 50.8 cm high
Private Collection
By the later nineteenth century, visitors who saw the prime version of this present bust in the galleries of the Vatican Museum assumed it to be an antique sculpture dating from the time of its subject. A smoothness of handling, however, and a concept of the ''ideal'' removed from that of the ancients places it in the period of the neo-classical revival of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The Vatican bust is in fact now believed to be by Canova or by one of his immediate pupils (information: Smithsonian Institution Washington DC) and our bust most probably originated in the master's workshop.

Although the subject of Rome's first emperor is in itself a favourite one for an age that not only worshipped the antique but sought to understand it in a more exact and precise way than their forebears, the resonances of this bust might also have struck observers around 1800 as decidedly modern. The identification of the young Octavian with the conquering Napoleon is inescapable, and reflects cultured Europe's confused admiration for the Frenchman who would -in most cases- prove their conqueror.
Philip Mould Ltd, 18-19 Pall Mall, London, SW1Y 5LU.Copyright Philip Mould Ltd.