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Bust of Cicero

Artist: Copy after the Roman Antique.
Year: Mid 19th century.
Medium: Marble
Size: NA
Original Location: Grand Salon
1983.01.03 EL On loan from the Noel family.

This is one of four larger than life size busts that were displayed in the Grand salon. It is not known if these four were Grand Tour purchases or purchase at another time. These types of bust would have been available in cities such as New York and Philadelphia by the mid nineteenth. In the first half of the nineteenth century there is a renewed interested in classicalism which is seen in decorative arts and architecture. This bust, along with the Bust of Demosthenes was purchased by the Acklen’s son, Joseph at the estate sale in 1888 for $35 [1] and descended through his family.

Cicero was a Roman orator, writer and statesman, born on January 3, 106 B. C. about seventy miles south of Rome. He went to Rome where he studied literature; philosophy, under Philo and law. He became famous practicing law in Rome. Later he studied philosophy in Athens. From there he went to Western Turkey and Rhodes where he studied oratory returning to Rome to resume his role as an advocate. He was elected to the Senate of Rome in 64. With the political turmoil at the end of the Roman Republic and the beginning of the Imperial Rome he was executed in 43 B.C.

Cicero’s legacy is his influence on western literature and culture. His translations of philosophy made a major contribution to the development of Latin. His impact on John Locke and Montesquieu formed the foundation of thinking for American independence. Thomas Jefferson names Cicero’s writings as influencing his draft of the Declaration of Independence. [2] His writings also influence the writers of the constitution and its ratification. [3]

[1]Robert Livingston Acklen Papers, Belmont Mansion Manuscript Collection.

[2] Thomas Jefferson, “Letter to Henry Lee,” 8 May 1825, in The Political Thought of American Statesmen, eds. Morton Frisch and Richard Stevens (Itasca, Ill.: F. E. Peacock Publishers, 1973), 12.

[3] A full discussion of these ideas can be found in the essay “Cicero and the Natural Law” by Walter Nicgorski, University of Notre Dame on the website Natural Law, Natural Rights, and the American Constitutionalism.

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