Livia herself was fortunate in the artist who made the head now in Copenhagen. The hair is stately, the bent Roman nose smacks of character, the eyes are thoughtful and tender, the lips pretty but firm; this is the woman who stood quietly behind Augustus’ throne, overthrew all her rivals and enemies, and mastered everybody but her son. Tiberius too fared well; idealized though it is, the seated figure in the Lateran Museum is a chef d’oeuvre worthy of the hand that carved the diorite Chephren in Cairo. Claudius was not so lucky; surely the sculptor was making fun of him, or illustrating Seneca’s Pumpkinification, when he carved him up as a worried Jupiter, fat and amiable and dumb. Nero tried hard to develop a sense of beauty, but his real passion was for fame and size; he saw no better function for Zenodotus, the Scopas of this age, than to consume his time in making a colossus of Nero as Apollo, 117 feet high. Hadrian had it removed to the foreground of the Flavian Amphitheater, which thence derived its name of Colosseum. With the honest Vespasian sculpture returned to reality. He let himself be represented frankly as a veritable plebeian, with coarse features, wrinkled brow, bald head, and enormous ears. Kinder is the bust in the Terme, showing a spirit harassed with affairs of state, or the businesslike face of the massive head in Naples. Titus comes down to us with a like cubical cranium and homely countenance; it is hard to think of this stout street vendor as the darling of mankind. Domitian had the good sense, in the realistic Flavian age, to have himself so hated in life that all his images were ordered destroyed after his death.
When the artist left the palace and roamed the streets he could give free play to the Italic imp of humorous truth. Some old man, surely less equipped with wisdom and denarii than the philosopher-premier, posed for the disheveled scarecrow once labeled Seneca. Athletes had their muscles immortalized for a moment by famous artists; and gladiators, as statues, found entry into the best homes, from patrician villas to Farnese palaces. The Roman sculptors relented when they handled the figures of women; now and then they carved an irascible shrew, but also they molded some Vestal Virgins of a graceful gravity, occasional incarnations of tenderness like the Clytie of the British Museum, and aristocratic ladies as fragilely charming as the dolls of Watteau or Fragonard. They were adept in the portrayal of children, as in the bronze Boy of the Metropolitan Museum, or the Innacenza of the Capitoline. They could chisel or cast the forms of animals with startling vividness, as in the wolves’ heads found at Nemi in 1929, or the prancing horses of St. Mark’s. They seldom achieved the smooth perfection of the Periclean schools; but that was because they loved the individual more than the type, and relished the life-giving imperfections of the real. With all their limitations they stand supreme in the history of portrait art.