Relief Portrait Head of the Emperor Balbinus

c. 238 CE
Overall: 18.5 cm (7 5/16 in.)
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Location: 103 Roman

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Did You Know?

Carved in deep relief (not quite in the round), this head comes from a large sarcophagus.


Wearing a laurel wreath, this head belongs to the little-known Emperor Balbinus, who ruled the empire together with Pupienus for only 99 days in AD 238, the now infamous Year of the Six Emperors. Following his death at the hands of an angry mob, Balbinus and his wife (whose name remains unknown) nevertheless received a large and impressive marble sarcophagus. The couple recline together on the lid, and appear twice in relief on the front, where this head originally belonged. Remarkably, although the head was purchased in Rome in 1925, two years before the sarcophagus was discovered (in many pieces near the Praetextatus Catacombs in Rome), it was found to fit a gap in the larger sculpture in 1966. Since then, a plaster cast of the Cleveland head has remained in place on the original sarcophagus, now in the Vatican Museums.
Relief Portrait Head of the Emperor Balbinus

Relief Portrait Head of the Emperor Balbinus

c. 238 CE

Italy, Roman

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