Commodus, son of the emperor Marcus Aurelius and his wife, Faustina the Younger, is shown here at the age of eleven. As attested by the medallion also in the Yale University Art Gallery’s collection, he has just been granted the title Germanicus in honor of his father’s victories in Germany. The heavy-lidded eyes recall those of Marcus Aurelius and link the son with his imperial father, a common propaganda device in portraits emphasizing dynastic succession. No signs of Commodus’s megalomania, which is known from historical sources, appear in this portrait of the young prince.
Art for Yale: Collecting for a New Century, exh. cat. (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2007), 211, 390, pl. 198.
“Acquisitions, July 1, 2007June 30, 2008,” Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin (2008): 182, ill.