Augustus of Primaporta
The statue of Augustus from Livia’s villa at Prima Porta is a marble copy of the original bronze statue that celebrates the return of the Roman standards by the Parthians in 53 BCE. The statue was set up in the year after Augustus’ death. It is 6 8 tall whereas Augustus was about 5′7″ and shows him as a young man in military uniform. Augustus holds a scepter in his left hand, and his right hand is extended as he addresses his armies. His stance is that of the Doryphoros by the fifth century Greek sculptor, Polykleitos. He is barefoot, which was a sign of divine status, and has Cupid on a dolphin beside his right foot that reminds the viewer of Venus, the supposed divine ancestor of the family.
Overall, the statue is built in a way to display the immense power and influence, a perfect platform for political propaganda. The arrangement of the locks of hair, although not powerful, is a sign of divine status. Each strand is articulate and exact in form and direction, yet very natural in pose and position. The overall smoothness of the marble radiates a smooth flowing humanism, but does not steal away his position as a human demi-god. His face is warm and inviting, exhibiting an almost warm, fuzzy feeling in the viewer once again, without threatening his power to command and control the great civilization of Rome.
The shoulder-clasps of the cuirass (breastplate) are in the form of sphinxes: the Sphinx was the image on Augustus’ seal (later he used an image of Alexander, and finally his own portrait). The reliefs on the cuirass focus on the return of the captured Roman standards. Centrally, the Parthian king hands over a standard with the eagle on its end and embellished by military decorations. The Roman receiving the standard may represent Romulus or Tiberius, Livia’s son and the commander of the Roman expedition in 20 BCE. To the right and left of the central figures are women representing conquered Roman provinces, perhaps Gaul on the viewer’s right, and Spain on the left. On the bottom, in the center, reclines Mother Earth, who is holding a cornucopia: To her right, Diana rides a stag while Apollo rides a griffin on the left..
The statue, although possessing traits and form of a more organic, humanistic nature, still portrays the immense power and influence held by Augustus during his reign over the mighty Roman Empire. Each and every detail is exact and perfect, giving a personal effect to the statue to show that although Augustus was powerful and unique, he was still a common man, or as he was called, a first citizen. His portraits were produced to present the population with the image of a god-like ruler who never aged and was ever superior. Since few in the ancient world had actually seen Augustus, the artists were able to portray him in any way, shape or form that fit the need.