Fine arts and art history
Statue de Claude dans la nudité héroïque, ca. AD 40, marble. Paris, Musée du Louvre. Photo © RMN - Grand Palais (Musée du Louvre) / Hervé Lewandowski

Tiberius Claudius Drusus was born in Lugdunum (Lyon). Fifty years later, against all expectations, he would be proclaimed emperor. The exhibition “Claude: An Imperial Destiny” highlights the life and the reign of Claudius through more than 150 works: statues, bas-reliefs, cameos and coins, objects of everyday life, history painting, etc.

Fine arts and art history
Bas-relief dit des Prétoriens, provenant de l’arc de Claude (detail) Rome, ca. AD 51-52, Paris, Musée du Louvre / Photo © RMN-Grand Palais (Musée du Louvre) / Hervé Lewandowski.

From the Museum of Fine Arts Lyon:

Claudius lived in Lyon only a few months after his birth before going to Rome and came back only occasionally throughout his life. Yet his memory is still deeply linked to the city’s history, especially through an exceptional object, the Claudian Tablet, which is an inscription on bronze of a speech that the emperor gave to the Senate in AD 48 requesting that citizens of Gaul have access to high-level positions as Roman magistrates.

Fine arts and art history
Portrait funéraire de l’affranchi Caius Aurunceius Princeps, Rome, ca. AD 40-50, marble. Brussels, Musées Royaux d’Art et d’Histoire. Image © Musées Royaux d’Art et d’Histoire, Brussels

The exhibition traces Claudius’s life from his birth in Lyon on August 1, 10 BC until his death in Rome on October 13, AD 54. This tale is quite different from the dark and unflattering version presented by ancient authors that is still expressed in fiction and film today. This new narrative is based on recent work by historians and archaeologists who, in addition to studying new archaeological and epigraphical discoveries, cast a critical eye on the ancient sources, placing them into the political and social context of the early Empire.

Fine arts and art history
Charles Lebayle, Claude proclamé empereur, 1886, oil on canvas. Beaux-Arts de Paris. Photo © Beaux-Arts de Paris, Dist. RMN- Grand Palais / image Beaux-arts de Paris

The result is a revised image of an emperor who cared for his people, promoted useful reforms, and was a good manager, and to whom the Empire owes the foundation of an organization that reached its height a few decades later.

“Claude: An Imperial Destiny” is on view at the Museum of Fine Arts Lyon (France) through March 4, 2019.


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