Hannibal

Roman

original

gift of: Judge John C. Currelly, in honour of his mother, Mary Newton Currelly.

date: 17th century AD

provenance: first sold at auction in 1939

description: Bronze bust in baroque style; heavy black patina. Man with curly hair, wearing cuirass with Gorgon head in center, mounted on a turned marble base. Height 66 cm, width 37 cm, depth 27.5 cm.

The inventory of the works of François Girardon (AD 1628-1715, sculptor to Louis XIV and decorator of the palace at Versailles; see also Aphrodite of Arles), indicates that a bronze bust of Hannibal was once in the collection. Donated to the Louvre at one time, its whereabouts were later unknown and this bronze may indeed be that very sculpture. It bears a striking resemblance to the engraving in Girardon’s inventory, though it may also be a copy of Girardon’s Hannibal done by Sebastien Slodtz (1655-1726), Girardon’s student and protegé.

The bust is, nonetheless, an original seventeenth century bronze portrait. It is, according to Girardon’s inventory, modelled after some ancient portrait of Hannibal. This is difficult to prove, however, since no portraits of Hannibal, not even on coinage, have survived the ancient world. There is however a remarkable similarity between this work and the portraits of the Severan and Antonine emperors, both in the facial features and in the genre.

Hannibal, a Carthaginian general, is considered to be one of the world’s greatest generals, and is often compared to Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar. Hannibal came very close to defeating the Romans during the Second Punic War (218-201 BC). He crossed the Alps into Italy with his forces and achieved a series of victories against the Romans, including the Battle of Cannae (216 BC), one of the worst military defeats the Romans had ever known.

However, the Romans refused to acknowledge defeat and managed to renew their forces, thereby enabling them to drive Hannibal out of Italy. Hannibal was defeated on African soil at the Battle of Zama (202 BC) by the Roman general Scipio Africanus.

(See also: Trajan; Gaius or Lucius Caesar; Livia.)