The bust is covered with a cuirass and a cloak (paludamentum), worn above the tunic. The portrait thus represents the emperor, who had spent a significant part of his rule at war along the Pannonian border, as a general. The beard composed of long, parallel locks of hair, however, follows the century-old tradition of depicting people of intellect — Marcus Aurelius, as he himself wrote in his Meditations, would have preferred to be a philosopher rather than an emperor. His locks of hair are combed back at the forehead — this is a distinctive trait of his fourth and last portrait type, which
differentiates his representations from those of all other emperors.
The exhibited plaster cast was made of the marble bust held in the Palazzo Braschi, Rome.