A portrait of Constantius II from 354, via two intermediaries

As manuscripts of the Vatican come online, it becomes possible to look at items previously known to us only from poor-quality photographs.  This is a good thing.

Years ago I made an online edition of the Chronography of 354, an illustrated luxury manuscript made for a Roman aristocrat in 354 AD, and transmitted to us by copies.  The pictures exist in various versions, mostly derived from a Carolingian copy now lost.  The best set, in monochrome, are preserved in Vatican Ms. Barberini lat.2154 B.  Sadly the full colours of the ancient original are not preserved; but the renaissance artist did his best to copy the Carolingian original.

Here’s one of the illustrations, on folio 13, depicting Constantius II, in the uncharacteristic pose of money falling from his hand.  Somehow one suspects that this charmless man did look rather like this.  (It is a pity that, as with other Italian stuff put online, the image is defaced with a watermark screaming “mine! mine! mine!!”)

2 thoughts on “A portrait of Constantius II from 354, via two intermediaries

  1. Thank you – how very interesting!

    It makes me realize how little I know about either Carolingian MSS. or Renaissance copies (or, for that matter, 4th-c. portraiture).

    My immediate (uninformed, vulgar) response is, the costume looks Carolingian in a way the head does not – it looks more… ‘Classical’. Renaissance classicism, or Carolingian care where its source was concerned (or the former enhancing the latter)?

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