The Digital Sculpture Project: Caligula

Modeler's Notes

Arms and hands:

"Restoration of the arms and hands: We looked at the examples of Roman orators recently published by Glenys Davies 2010 (see bibliography below) and decided to restore the arms and hands on the model of the bronze statue of L. Mammius Maximus from Herculaneum." --Notes of NEH Caligula Workshop held at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, November 22, 2010.*


"Looking at the detail of the head and face, the first thing to catch my attention is the rendering of the eyelashes. I don't recall Mark Abbe finding any traces of lashes on the original - or am I wrong? If indeed no traces were found, I suppose the eyelashes of the Copenhagen Caligula would be the nearest analogy on which to base the Virginia reconstruction." --Jan Stubbe Østergaard, April 27, 2011.

Gilding of toga fringe:

"Regarding the gilding, several points. First, the gilding should be on the toga purpurea, not the toga praetexta. Second, the location of the gilding should be in a band along the outer edge of the garment, namely the same location as the outer edge of the purple band of the toga praetexta. The gilded pattern I previously submitted should honor the alignment and follow the folds of the garment in so far as possible so that it looks like part of the garment, not a pasted on layer. The gilding pattern should be of fine, almost minute scale. We mean to suggest fine quality workmanship, not big brash designs. This is the kind of small, restrained, elegant embellishment one finds on traditional textiles the world over, legible at 12 inches, barely legible at 36 inches." --Mark Abbe, May 19, 2011.

Skin tone:

"Color is also preserved on other examples of Caligula's portrait: bust found in the Via Giulia in 1886 (now in Palazzo Massimo) was reported by Lanciani to have had color, but the alleged pigment deposits may instead have been river mud. A bust from Gortyn (now in Herakleion, Crete) has traces of flesh tones on neck and purple on toga part used in the capite velato. It was noted that the Gortyn piece would be useful to study for the purposes of our project. Then there is the bust in Copenhagen, purchased in Paris and reportedly from Asia Minor. It has traces of color on the eyebrow, iris, pupil, etc. and has been used as the basis of the polychromy experiment by team member Østergaard (who later in the day explained that there have been two experimental reconstructions: "A" and "B"). Roman portrait painting more generally was reviewed (e.g., Fayum portraits). The use of underpainting and highlighting was noted. It is important to recognize that even in sculpture, features are sometimes conveyed through painting, not sculpting. This is especially true of locks of hair. Examples discussed included: Julio-Claudian prince from Aydin with traces of underpainting. Bursa 258 is the best-preserved painted marble portrait relief. It preserves the full sequence of painting: underpainting, articulation of flesh tones, highlighting and shadows, finish (ganosis)." --Notes of NEH Caligula Workshop held at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, November 22, 2010.*

"Regarding the flesh tones, this version looks much better. Can we reduce the red values on the ears, tip of the nose, inner nostrils, immediately above the eyes (between eyelid and eyebrows) in the same manner?" --Mark Abbe, May 19, 2011.


"Mark Abbe's examination revealed traces of madder lake and Egyptian blue in the upper left folds of the tunic. The grains of Egyptian blue were very small, which is suggestive of high- quality workmanship. Madder lake and Egyptian blue yield purple, so we know that the clavus area of the tunic was painted with at least a purple stripe. No coloration was evident on the toga; the garment was presumably a (toga praetexta) and perhaps was completely purple (toga purpurea). Our reconstruction of the coloration of the toga reflects who we think Caligula was--or how he wished himself to be portrayed. Our best sources date from the IIC but imperial dress may have been simpler in the IC. There is evidence of the toga praetexta; the toga purpurea (Tarragona 7584; Formia 147614). The arms and hands are preserved on the latter statue, which offers a close parallel to our Caligula. Also close is Fundilius Doctus in Copenhagen (although his arms and hands are not preserved). The toga picta is associated with victory in battle (cf. Vel Saties, Francois Tomb; Echija 180). Also pertinent is gold embroidery, of which an example was shown. We might especially expect such expensive work on an imperial garment." --Notes of NEH Caligula Workshop held at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, November 22, 2010.*

Final Recommendation of the NEH Workshop:

"The modeler should create three variants of the restored Caligula statue: toga praetexta, toga purpurea, and toga picta. A precedent for the polychrome technique could be the statues of two Julio-Claudian princes (probably Lucius and Gaius) in the Metropolitan Museum. Evidence is preserved of a purple band on the himation with traces of gold. The face should be painted with use of the sophisticated technique of underpainting, highlighting, shadow found on the Pompeian painted portrait Naples 132424. We might create several alternative versions of the face. The hair should show the play of light vs. shadow as seen, e.g., on Fayum portrait Berlin PK 31161. The skin should have a radiant glow such as what is seen in Fayum portrait AM 19722 (90s AD). The garments should also be painted with subtle tonal variations: we should avoid a 'paint-by-numbers' approach. The shoes (calceus patricius type) should be black."


Mark Abbe, "The Togatus Statue of Caligula in the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts: An Archaeological Description" (2013).

Glenys Davies, "Togate Statues and Petrified Orators," in Form and Function in Roman Oratory, ed. D. Berry, A Erskine, (Cambridge University Press, 2010) 51-72.


*Participants in the NEH Workshop included: Bernard Frischer, Kathy Gillis, Paolo Liverani, Maria Grazia Picozzi, John Pollini, Peter Schertz, and Eric Varner.

Caligula Model Main Page

Copyright © 2009-13. Last updated: March 22, 2013.

The Digital Sculpture Project is an activity of the Virtual World Heritage Laboratory.