The young emperor Severus Alexander (r. A.D. 222–235) is wearing a toga contabulata, with a large overfold (sinus) across the chest and a diagonal fold extending over the left shoulder and down the back. The type is distinctive of later Roman portraits in which the subject is shown in formal civic dress. The bust was probably produced in an imperial workshop at Rome and was set up in a prominent public place, perhaps with other imperial portraits representing his predecessors or with other members of the imperial family, such as his mother Julia Mamaea. The head, carved with great skill and sensitivity, combines a sense of growing maturity and power with a still visible youthful delicacy. The last emperor of the Severan dynasty, Severus Alexander died violently in Germany at the age of twenty-six.
Probably found in Rome before 1868
[From before 1868 and until 1879, with Wolfgang Helbig, Rome]; 1879, acquired by Baron Philip Wambolt von Umstadt from W. Helbig; 1879-2010, collection of the Wambolt von Umstadt family, Schloss Birkenau, Germany; acquired in 2011, purchased from Valerio Turchi, Rome.
From before 1868 and until 1879, with Wolfgang Helbig, Rome; 1879, acquired by Baron Philip Wambolt von Umstadt from W. Helbig; 1879-2010, collection of the Wambolt von Umstadt family, Schloss Birkenau, Germany; acquired in 2011, purchased from Valerio Turchi, Rome.
Helbig, Wolfgang. 1868. Bullettino dell'Instituto di Corrispondenza Archeologica, 2: pp. 35–36.
Bernoulli, John Jakob. 1894. Römische Ikonographie, II, 3. no. 8, p. 148, Stuttgart: W. Spemann.
Felletti Maj, Bianca Maria. 1958. Iconografia romana imperiale da Severo Alessandro a M. Aurelio Carino (222-285 d. C). no. 10, p. 89, Roma: L'Erma di Bretschneider.
Wiggers, Heinz Bernhard. 1971. Das Römische Herrscherbild. III. Abteilung, Band 1: Caracalla, Geta, Plautilla, Max Wegner, ed. p. 191, Berlin: Verlag Gebr. Mann.
Lightfoot, Christopher S., Carlos A. Picón, Kyriaki Karoglou, Dr. Seán Hemingway, and Joan R. Mertens. 2012. "Recent Acquisitions, A Selection: 2010-2012." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, 70(2): p. 13.
Zanker, Paul. 2016. Roman Portraits: Sculptures in Stone and Bronze in the Collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. no. 29, pp. 57, 62, 91–93, New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art.