This male bust found in Rome in 1505 immediately aroused the interest of lovers of antiquity who identified it with the emperor Vitellius. In reality, it is the image of a stranger, whose facial features are rendered in a realistic way: thick eyebrows, prominent nose, thin lips, plump cheeks and double chin. Some technical features such as the shape of the bust, now partially missing, the hair and the incision of the pupils of the eyes, have led scholars to date the work to the Hadrian age, between 120 and 140 AD.
The portrait of Vitellio was donated to the Venetian State by Domenico Grimani with the will of 1523 and was exhibited in the Doge's Palace together with other sculptures in a room which then took the name of "Sala delle Teste". This prestigious location contributed to the fortune of the work, allowing numerous artists to study it and draw inspiration from it: sketches and drawings by Tintoretto and Jacopo Palma il Giovane, for example, confirm the intense study of which it was the subject; paintings that resume its appearance, attributing it to characters with different names, prove its extraordinary fame. In this regard, see the Banquet in the house of Levi, painted by Paolo Veronese in 1573 for the refectory of the convent of SS. Giovanni e Paolo in Venice, today in the Accademia Galleries. Finally, there is news of numerous reproductions of the bust of Vitellius from the Grimani Collection made in different eras and different materials, such as the bronze copy, belonging to the collection of Giacomo Contarini, another important patrician scholar in Renaissance Venice, exhibited in the Museum in the same room.