Featured Work of Art
Portrait of the Emperor Caracalla, ca. A.D. 217–30; Late Severan
H. 14 1/4 in. (36.2 cm)
Samuel D. Lee Fund, 1940 (40.11.1a)
Collection Area: Greek and Roman Art
Subject Areas: Visual Arts, English Language Arts, World History
Grades: Middle School, High School
Topics/Themes: Identity, Power and Leadership
Students will be able to
- identify ways Roman artists conveyed the power of leaders through portraiture; and
- communicate their values as a ruler through creative art making.
Visual Arts – Choosing and Evaluating a Range of Subject Matter, Symbols, and Ideas
Visual Arts – Understanding the Visual Arts in Relation to History and Cultures
Visual Arts – Making Connections Between Visual Arts and Other Disciplines
English Language Arts – Communication Skills
English Language Arts – Multicultural Understanding
English Language Arts – Applying Language Skills
World History – Era 3: Classical Traditions, Major Religions, and Giant Empires, 1000 B.C.E.–300 C.E.
Questions for Viewing
- Look closely at the figure's facial features. What do you notice?
- What emotion do you think he is feeling?
- How would you describe his gaze? Where does he appear to be looking?
- How would you feel if you ran into him on the street?
- What role do you think this person played in his community?
- Where might this object have been displayed before it came to the Museum? Why do you think it would have been displayed there?
- This bust features the Roman Emperor Caracalla. Why do you think he wanted to be portrayed in this way? What might this portrait tell us about him as a ruler?
- How is this portrait similar to or different from representations of leaders today?
Look closely at the Portrait head of Emperor Constantine I and note the similarities and differences between the two sculptures. If you were having your portrait made, which style would you prefer? Why? With this in mind, draw yourself as a Roman emperor or empress. Consider the leadership qualities about which you feel most strongly and how they could be most clearly expressed through the style of the artwork, the accessories you are holding or wearing, and the place the artwork would be on view. Exchange your finished portrait with a neighbor. Have him or her write a poem extolling the virtues of the ruler shown in your portrait.
Materials: Pencils, drawing paper
Activity Setting: Classroom or Museum
Beyer, Andreas. Portraits: A History. New York: Abrams, 2003.
Pre-Visit Guide for Teachers: The Art of Ancient Greece and Rome (PDF)
"Portrait head of the emperor Marcus Aurelius Antoninus (called Caracalla) [Roman] (40.11.1a)." In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. (October 2006)
Thompson, Nancy L. Roman Art: A Resource for Educators. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2007. Download the resource.
Trentinella, Rosemarie. "Roman Portrait Sculpture: Republican through Constantinian." In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. (October 2003)
Fragmentary portrait of the emperor Caracalla, ca. A.D. 212–17; Mid-Imperial, Severan
H. 8 1/2 in. (21.6 cm)
Gift of Norbert Schimmel Trust, 1989 (1989.281.80)
Portrait head of Emperor Constantine I, ca. 325–70 A.D.; Constantinian; Late Antique period
H. 37 1/2 in. (95.25 cm)
Bequest of Mary Clark Thompson, 1923 (26.229)
Relief of King Ashurnasirpal II, Neo-Assyrian period, reign of Ashurnasirpal II, 883–859 B.C.
Mesopotamia, excavated at Kalhu (modern Nimrud)
H. 92 1/4 in. (234.3 cm)
Gift of John D. Rockefeller Jr., 1932 (32.143.4)
Author: Adapted from a lesson by Felicia Blum, Michael Norris, and Edith Watts in Roman Art: A Resource for Educators
Affiliation: The Metropolitan Museum of Art