Records of Fortune

Yeah, Classics!

Limestone Head. Roman. c.50 - 30 BC.

Portrait head, with a strongly aquiline nose. The hair is brought in waves to each side, and ends in a long plait, which is coiled at the back of the head. Two small ringlets fall in front of each ear. The lobes of the ears are pierced for earrings. There is no diadem, which would indicate royalty.

"This head was one of the first portraits to be identified as Cleopatra VII using coins as a comparison. However, there is no royal diadem and it is now widely believed to represent a woman who closely modelled herself on Cleopatra’s image, perhaps a member of the queen’s entourage who travelled to Rome with her from Egypt. During Cleopatra’s stay in Rome between 46 and 44 BC, her notoriety and public appearances would have made her a celebrity, and her style and fashions were also imitated by Roman women. Alternatively, if this head is to be identified as a portrait of Cleopatra VII, it may indicate the queen’s desire to be shown in Roman fashion with no royal insignia. This latter idea would, however, be totally at odds with the words of Cicero (Ad Atticum 15, 15, 2), who regarded Cleopatra as unacceptably regal and arrogant."

(The British Museum)

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