Roma Universalis: recently recovered bust of Septimius Severus on display at Colosseum

12 August 2019

From now until 25 August, the portrait bust of Septimius Severus welcomes visitors to the exhibiton “Roma Universalis”, on the second floor of the Colosseum. A one-of-a-kind opportunity to admire this extraordinary example of Roman portraiture, given back to the public after an incredible chain of events finally resolved thanks to the collaboration of three separate national institutions.

The bust of the emperor who was a member of the “dynasty from Africa” is the successful result of a recovery operation organized by the Italian financial police (Guardia di Finanza). Following a stakeout in September 2017, the law enforcement officers found the bust wrapped in a blanket in the back of an SUV in Piazza Esedra.

The exquisitely crafted work of art, dateable between the 2nd and 3rd centuries, comes from the area of Guidonia – Montecelio. After its recovery it was entrusted to the Superintendency of Archaeology, Fine Arts and Landscape for the Rome Metropolitan Area, the Province of Viterbo and Southern Etruria, the area’s appropriate authority. The Parco archeologico del Colosseo entered into a collaboration with the Superintendency, with the goals of restoring the bust and raising awareness of cultural heritage crimes.

The recovery operation was in fact the result of the constant monitoring of the circulation of works of art carried out by the Guardia di Finanza, whose aim is to prevent, gather information about and curb economic and financial violations, in close collaboration with the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities. Works of art belonging to the state’s cultural heritage are particularly enticing for criminal organizations, who are constantly looking for new ways to conceal their illegal profits and the financial transactions linked to them. The Guardia di Finanza concentrates their efforts especially on these illegal processes.

The emperor’s portrait bust will remain on display until the exhibition comes to an end, at which point the statue will be returned to the Superintendency, who will safeguard it until the conclusion of the ongoing legal proceedings.