The Getty Museum in Los Angeles has acquired a marble bust from the first century related to the Roman ritual surrounding the first shaving of a young man’s beard. The portrait of Roman general Germanicus, the adopted son of Tiberius and later the father of Caligula, shows the young buck before the time of his depositio barbae, the term for a boy’s first trip to a barber to trim the stubble on his face.
“This stunning portrait bust adds an extraordinary sculpture to the Villa’s collection of Roman portraits,” Timothy Potts, the Getty Museum’s director, said in a statement. “It is among the finest and best-preserved portraits of the young Germanicus at the time of his adoption in AD 4 by his uncle, the soon-to-be Roman emperor Tiberius, and complements nicely other Roman busts in the antiquities collection at the Villa.”
Born in 15 B.C.E., Germanicus was groomed to become emperor of Rome but did not assume the throne before his death at 33 in the year 19, under what a Getty press release called “suspicious circumstances” that led to posthumous honors and signs of status that included him being “venerated as Rome’s version of Alexander the Great.”
The bust of Germanicus will join others in the Getty’s collection including marble portraits of his son, Caligula; his daughter, Agrippina the Younger; his uncle and adoptive father, Tiberius; and his great uncle, Augustus. It is thought to have been acquired in Rome as early as 1798 by Thomas Bruce, the 7th Earl of Elgin, and stayed with his heirs in Scotland until it was bought by a private collector at auction in New York in 2012.
The work will be displayed this month in a “Recent Acquisitions” show at the Getty Center and then go on permanent view at the Getty Villa Museum in 2022.