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'False' Portraits of Antiquity
Anyone doing a Google search on Galla Placidia, daughter of Theodosius and de facto ruler of the west in the earlier 5th century, will probably find (besides lots of pictures of her mausoleum in Ravenna) this portrait, supposedly showing the Augusta and her family:


It's a wonderful image - and appears on the cover of more than one recent biography - but unfortunately it does not show Galla Placidia... It's a gilded glass medallion portrait of an unknown family group, probably 3rd-early 4th century, later used as the centrepiece of a 7th century cross.

This interesting article by Jasper Burns discusses the mysterious portrait and makes some guesses about what it might show (is one of the figures a ghost??)

The real Aelia Galla Placidia appears on this 5th century medallion, although we don't know how 'generic' the portrait might be:


Anyway - I was wondering how many other well known portrait images of figures from ancient Rome are (probably) not really who they are supposed to be. The only one that springs to mind is the bust of 'Julius Caesar' found in the Rhone at Arles (and still displayed under that name in the museum there). But I'm sure there must be plenty of others.

Can anyone suggest any in particular?
Nathan Ross

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'False' Portraits of Antiquity - by Nathan Ross - 03-03-2017, 04:16 PM

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