Livia head in British Museum Livia head in British Museum

This marble head shows the same severely conservative hairstyle as two of the other portraits in this exhibition. The portrait probably dates from the early Augustan period, before the end of the first century BCE. Note the absence of hair adornments or of any jewelry at all. At a time when Augustus was seeking to curb the luxury of the aristocratic classes, whose female members typically wore quantities of costly jewels, it was significant that the emperor's wife, despite her great wealth and high status, should appear with little or no jewelry, dressed in the traditional garb of the Roman matron. Perhaps this lack of jewelry was intended to remind viewers of the famous statement of an earlier exemplar of Roman womanly values, Cornelia, mother of the Gracchi brothers. When asked why she wore no jewelry, Cornelia allegedly replied, “My children are my jewels.”

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