• Portrait of the Emperor Caracalla as a Youth

    height 64,0 cm

Portrait of the Emperor Caracalla as a Youth

Ancient Rome, 196-204

Caracalla (186/188–217, Emperor from 211) was the son of Emperor Septimius Severus. He got the nickname by which he is generally known from the name of a long Celtic cape with a hood. The Hermitage portrait shows him as a boy aged 12–14. More than 40 replications of this type of portrait of the young Caracalla with the distinctive arrangement of locks over the forehead are known. It was reproduced on coins and, due to that, the original of the portrait is well dated. That work was created in 196, on the occasion of the heir to the throne being given the name Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Bassianus, stressing the succession of power from the Antonine dynasty. Caracalla is one of the most eloquent images in the Hermitage collection of Roman sculptural portraits. The boy’s plump cheeks and small capricious mouth contrast with the tenacious look of suspicion in the slanting eyes, half-closed beneath heavy lids. The cold, distrustful face carries a barely discernible self-satisfied smile. Caracalla is known to have spent his childhood and adolescence on the battlefields in Britain and the eastern parts of the Roman Empire. After his father’s death, he succeeded as co-ruler with his brother Geta. The siblings made no secret of their mutual hatred: “Each did all he could to somehow be rid of his brother and to gain a full grip on power,” until the elder finally dared to commit fratricide. From 112, Caracalla was the sole ruler and he has gone down in history as one of Rome’s cruellest masters. A man of ferocious temperament, Caracalla was a real barbarian in appearance and in spirit, preferring barbarian clothing and worshipping barbarian gods.


Portrait of the Emperor Caracalla as a Youth





height 64,0 cm

Acquisition date:

Entered the Hermitage in 1887; originally in the Princess Golitsyn collection

Inventory Number: