Date: Reign of Emperor Traianus (98-117 AD)
Dimensions: 182 cm
Material: Marble “pavonazzetto”
This colossal torso depicts a Dacian prince dressed in a long tunic cinched at the waist by a cingulum, a belt, and a mantle covering most of the figure that is fastened on the right shoulder by a ring-shaped buckle. The arms are crossed in front of the body displaying a defeated attitude associated with the most popular iconographic representations of prisoners.
This man is a high-ranking Dacus, as made evident by the presence of his typical pointed pileus cap, from which emerges a few tufts of hair at the temples. His eyes are focused in a pathetic expression strongly intensified by his unkempt beard. The sculpture is made of pavonazzetto – a white marble extracted from purple veins in the quarries of ancient Phrygia, in the heart of Turkey.
Along with many other sculptures of the same subject, this one must have been part of the overall decorative scheme used to ornament the great Trajan Forum which was inaugurated by the Emperor in 113 AD. These pavonazzetto sculptures were larger than those in white marble, thus they were possibly placed on top of the decorated arcade.
The restoration of the Bust of the Dacian Prince was completed thanks to donations made by the Colorado Chapter of the Patrons of the Arts in the Vatican Museums.
Before restoration began, the statue was in the Chiaramonti Gallery, where it had been since 1817, when it was acquired by the Vatican Museums. In order to accomplish the restoration, the marble statue was relocated to the Marble Restoration Laboratory in the Vatican Museums. While there, cleaning operations began with a test that would determine what type of methodology the restoration team would need to use. Once that was determined, the selective cleaning continued with the removal of surface deposits through the use of wet compresses of deionized water. Once the film was cleared from the statue, the gray marble demonstrated its natural beauty through its purple veins.
Restoration also required the dismantling of some parts of the statue. The nose was removed in order to care for the activation wax-resin which was used in ancient times as an adhesive. Plaster integrations were removed and replaced with puffy mortar and marble powders that were previously tested to achieve the grain size and resulting color camouflage. Finally, repositioning of the original parts of the fingers was the last phase addressed and was finished with the adjustment of the plaster parts’ color using watercolors.
The Prince, as he had come to be known by the restoration team at the Vatican Museums, next awaited the completion of the restoration of the pedestal on which he was to be placed. Finally, The Bust of the Dacian Prince was returned to public display in the Chiaramonti Gallery for all to enjoy.
Photos of the original Bust along with the completed piece on August 16, 2016.
Bust of Dacian Prince in the Chiaramonti Gallery with Fr. Daniel Hennessey, Patrons Director