Wearing a short tunic and patrician boots, the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius is depictedon horseback in this 12-foot-high, second-century A.D. gilded bronze sculpture by an unknown artist. Until 1981, the statue stood on an elegant oval base created by Michelangelo in 1538. Pope Paul III had commissioned Michelangelo to remodel Rome’s Capitoline Hill into a monumental civic plaza, and insisted that the statue of Marcus Aurelius (then mistakenly thought to represent Rome’s first Christian emperor, Constantine [272-337 A.D.]) be moved from Rome’s Lateran Square and placed at the center of the plaza.
In 1981 authorities restored the statue and moved it into the Capitoline Museum, where it was installed behind protective glass. A copy of the statue was made in 1997, from a mold created through computer-generated photographs, and placed on Michelangelo’s carved base in the center of the Campidoglio plaza.