Head from a statue of the god Dionysus
From Hadrian’s Villa at Tivoli
2nd century AD
This sculpture shows Dionysus, Greek god of wine, and imitates Greek works in bronze made at the beginning of the fifth century BC. It was made for the Roman emperor Hadrian’s magnificent country residence near Tivoli, outside Rome.
Tivoli was a favourite country resort of wealthy Romans. When it was built, Hadrian’s estate covered almost 120 hectares and is the largest known villa from the Roman world. It had many elaborate buildings and was filled with exquisite works of art. It was a place where the emperor carried out government business and entertained large numbers of guests drawn from the empire’s elite.
It was full of artworks, among them hundreds of sculptures. This vast decorative scheme was a mirror of contemporary Roman upper-class culture and taste. The sculptures were not necessarily meant to be seen as individual masterpieces, but constituted a complete classical, cultural and religious world. This underlined Rome’s role as powerful guardian of Greece’s ancient heritage. In this way, it also served to reinforce Roman dominance.
Dionysus (the Roman Bacchus) and the mythical figures of his entourage were very prominent in the villa’s decorative scheme. Several versions of such sculptures have been discovered at the site.