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Video transcript

we're in the capital on Museum in Rome and we're looking at a portrait bust or maybe I should say just a portrait head that is known as Brutus it's complicated because the way that we see him he's part of a bust and that was a very typical Roman form of portrait to put a head on shoulders and the top of the torso but in fact the only part of this that's original is the head and it got the name that it's currently known by Brutus in the 16th century when they imagined that this was Brutus who was the first leader of the ancient Roman Republic Brutus is a legendary figure he was the nephew of the last King and according to tradition he led the revolt against his uncle so he's the founder of the Roman Republic the man who asks the last king of the last autocratic ruler and establishes the rule of the Senate the rule of the people and throughout history he is periodically important whenever there is a push toward a democratic government for example in the 18th century Jacques Louie de vide we'll heroism so let's look at the sculpture well it's really clear when you look closely that the head doesn't belong to the bust well the head is very finely wrought whereas the boss is quite coarse look at the detail of the moustache of the beard of the eyebrows and then there are those eyes and the eyes are made of painted ivory and they make him look incredibly lifelike art historians have noticed how his head inclines downward slightly and have theorized that perhaps this was part of an equestrian sculpture that is a sculpture of a figure on a horse where he might be like Marcus Aurelius looking out but down and addressing his troops we're lucky that a bronze has survived bronze is expensive and can be easily melted down and reused which is generally what happened there is this interest during the period of the ancient Roman Republic in capturing the specific likenesses of individuals this is so different than what we're going to see when Augustus becomes the first emperor of Rome where we get very idealized in says this was likely meant to commemorate an individual in the 16th century they thought it was Brutus what we really don't know who this was but it makes sense because we know that the ancient Romans commemorated great political figures great military leaders and statues of the ancient Romans made of those great leaders often lined important ceremonial sites like the forum which is just down the hill our own tradition of commemorating the presidents of the United States for example comes from this ancient Roman tradition there are very particular features and yet he is also ennoble he's meant to look intelligent wise thoughtful and look how the eyebrows have been stylized just a little bit to almost look like a crown of laurels that wrap around his brow and it reminds us too that in the ancient Roman Republic wisdom was something that was seen to come with age and wisdom was important for political leadership well in fact the Republic was ruled by the Senate a council of elders we can see that he's pushing his brow together so there's a concern and worry but his jaw is tightly set his lips are together so there's a sense of resoluteness and resoluteness perhaps in the face of some turmoil and I think it's those qualities that perhaps that people in the 16th century too to associate this with Brutus someone who was strong and determined and principled so we've been reading into the sculpture since at least the 16th century and here we are continuing to do it today and although we don't know who this man is we understand how distinguished he was and how people must have looked up to him you