Marble portrait bust of Severus Alexander

Period: Late Severan

Date: ca. A.D. 230–235

Culture: Roman

Medium: marble

Dimensions: Overall: 29 1/8 x 29 1/2 in. (74 x 75 cm)

Classification: Stone Sculpture

Credit Line: Purchase, Lila Acheson Wallace and Philodoroi Gifts, 2011

Accession Number: 2011.87


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.