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Portrait Figure of a Ruler
200–225 AD

82 x 49 3/4 x 17 1/2 inches

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Gift of D. and J. de Menil in memory of Conrad Schlumberger


This larger-than-life-size bronze statue depicts a Roman emperor with godlike perfect proportions. His lifted arm once held a lance in a gesture of victorious authority.
The first Roman emperor, Augustus (27 BC–AD 14), followed the example of antiquity's most famous conqueror, Alexander the Great, and declared himself divine. Subsequent emperors did the same, and their statues and monuments portrayed their bodies as perfect gods with little regard for actual appearance. The heads, however, would have been real likenesses of the emperors, easily identified from coins used during their reigns.

The proud stance of Portrait Figure of a Ruler is characteristic of depictions of Alexander the Great. This statue was probably made for an imperial cult temple in Asia Minor, where the reigning emperor was worshipped.