The president of the Junta, Juanma Moreno, with the bust. / SUR

Andalucía invests in a Roman emperor for city museum

Antoninus Pius. The Junta de Andalucía has paid 80,000 euros to ensure that the bust of the emperor linked to Roman Malaga stays in the region

IVÁN GELIBTER

Just over a month since the talks began, the Junta de Andalucía has acquired a bust of Antoninus Pius for display in the Museum of Malaga because of the emperor's close links with the city.

The purchase was announced this week by the president of the Junta de Andalucía Juanma Moreno, who said the regional government had paid 80,000 euros for it, which he considers a "very reasonable" investment.

Archaeologists and historians had raised the alarm when they spotted the bust for sale at Feriarte, the antiques fair in Madrid, in early December. For two years, it had formed part of the Ifergan Collection, in the gallery in Malaga's Calle Sebastian Souvirón, and only two months ago it was officially classified as a BIC (Item of Cultural Interest), which meant it could not be taken out of Spain.

It is an exceptional piece, as it is the only portrait of an emperor linked to Roman Malaga of which there is any record. It is also in a good state of conservation. Sculpted in local marble in the 2nd century, it belongs to the High-Imperial period (138-161 AD), when Antoninus Pius took over the government.

Found near centre of Malaga

The bust was first found by chance in 1912 on the San Guillermo estate in the Huelin district, about three kilometres from the historic city centre. It first attracted attention in 1963, at the 8th National Archaeological Congress, which took place in Seville and Malaga, thanks to one of the great figures in Malaga archaeology, Simeón Giménez-Reyna.

Juanma Moreno stressed how valuable this piece of sculpture is to the history of Malaga and said he had been learning more about it in recent days. He also said that, for him personally, as he is a native of Malaga, the acquisition of the bust feels an "early present from the Three Kings".