• Portrait of the Emperor Philip the Arab

    height: 72,0 cm

Portrait of the Emperor Philip the Arab

Ancient Rome, 244-249

Philip the Arab (204–249, Emperor from 244) is among the portraits of “solder emperors”. He belongs to the period in Roman history known as the Crisis of the Third Century, a time when one ruler rapidly succeeded another and men of non-noble origin came to power through military coups. Philip the Elder, known as the Arab, did come from Arabia. He was appointed co-ruler of the young Gordian III and in 244, following his death, was proclaimed Emperor by the Syrian legions. On coming to power, Philip was quickly met with revolts that flared up in various corners of the empire. During one of them, the forces proclaimed another military commander emperor and in 249 Philip was killed. The striking image of Philip is the first in a series of depictions of soldier emperors, with whose emergence the style of the official portrait changed. These are images of a new type of ruler: Philip has a heavy lowering gaze, a bull neck and close-cropped hair. There is an emphasis on inclination to violence, cunning and guile – leadership qualities that make for a meteoric rise in the military milieu. The image is rendered more expressive by the methods employed in the art of the second quarter and middle of the 3rd century. Extreme concision became a feature of portrait sculpture. Philip’s hair and beard are conveyed by incisions; an abstract graphic approach is combined with the energetic sculpting of the face. This tendency heralds the appearance of an abstract expressionism linked to the growing influence of the barbarian provinces.


Portrait of the Emperor Philip the Arab





height: 72,0 cm

Acquisition date:

Entered the Hermitage in 1787; originally in the John Lyde Browne collection

Inventory Number:





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