This work belongs to a group of 3rd-century portraits of those known as "soldier emperors". Balbin held power for just a short time in 238 AD. According to one Classical author, he was necessary to the state "for his mild character and his irreproachable life, which from his childhood he spent engrossed in learning and literature." But "it is impossible to keep the soldiers in check if their souls are full of hate" and the emperor elected by the senate but unwanted to the soldiers was assassinated. This portrait of Balbinus is one of the masterpieces of the Hermitage Classical collection. In Roman style the face of this middle-aged young man is conveyed realistically: the full, flaccid cheeks, the sharp wrinkles on the brow, the weak asymmetrical mouth. Particular attention is paid to the tired and confused eyes. The surface of the bust is carefully worked up but there are new devices which are alien to Antique tradition, such as the generalized treatment of the hair in short notches applied with a rabbet.
Portrait of the Emperor Balbinus
Entered the Hermitage in 1852; formerly in the Laval collection