The statue portrays Augustus intent on celebrating a sacrifice.
He wears the toga (robe) after the fashion of the final decades of the 1st century BCE: considered the Roman national costume, the toga had to be worn by magistrates and common citizens alike every time they entered public places. The Emperor has his head veiled, as was the practice of Roman priests during the sacred rites; probably in his right hand he once held the patera (the sacrificial cup) and in his left the volumen (papyrus scroll or parchment).
The portrait reproduces faithfully the distinctive traits of the Emperor's face like the dovetail motif, formed by the locks at the center of his fringe, or the slightly protruding cheekbones; the wrinkles on his forehead and at the sides of his nose are signs of advanced age. It is an example of the classicistic style, typical of the Augustan Age, in which the realistic traits are coupled with an expression of pensive and detached intensity.
The work probably dates from the years immediately following 12 CE, when the Emperor assumed the priestly office of Pontifex Maximus (High Priest).
The statue was executed in separate parts, according to a technique of Hellenistic tradition, using diverse varieties of marble (Greek for the exposed parts, Italic for the garments).