Portrait of Domitia Longina

Ancient Rome, first half of the 2nd century

During the rule of the Flavian dynasty (69-96 AD) the Roman Empire flourished; its borders extended to their maximum, there were successful wars in the East, buildings and statues were erected on a grandiose scale. In the sculpture we can sense a tendency towards monumentality, decoration and complex forms. In just such a style is this portrait of Domitia Longina (c. 55-c. 140), wife of the Emperor Domitian (81-96 AD), last representative of the Flavian dynasty. We know little of Domitia herself. She was beautiful and dissipated - according to Suetonius "she was ready to boast of any of her debauchery" - and Domitian divorced her after a scandalous affair with the actor Paris, but then forgave her and "supposedly at the demand of the people, took her back". Domitia knew of the plot against her husband which led to his murder. The portrait head was part of a monumental statue showing Domitia "Augustus", in a chiton and with a robe thrown over her head. The face of this Roman beauty is totally without idealisation. In portraits of the Flavian period sculptors emphasized individuality both of external appearance and character - in this case a wilful and cruel character. A tendency to strive for decorative qualities appears in the contrast of light and shade in conveying the complex hairstyle, each lock of hair worked up with the use of a gimlet. The face is generalized, and the details treated graphically, probably because the huge statue was to be viewed from a certain distance.


Portrait of Domitia Longina




height: 70 cm

Acquisition date:

Entered the Hermitage in 1850; transferred from Tsarskoe Selo

Inventory Number: