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Life Imitates Art

Toward the beginning of Henry James’ story ‘The Last of the Valerii’, we read this description from the story’s narrator, who is a painter, of his American goddaughter’s Roman husband-to-be:

‘Strong the Conte Valerio certainly was; he had a head and throat like some of the busts in the Vatican. To my eye, which has looked at things now so long with the painter’s purpose, it was a real perplexity to see such a throat rising out of the whit cravat of the period. It sustained a head as massively round as that of the familiar bust of the Emperor Caracalla and covered with the same dense sculptural crop of curls. The young man’s hair grew superbly; it was such hair as the old Romans must have had when they walked bareheaded and bronzed about the world.’

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