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Head of Hadrian

  • Object type

  • Museum number

    1848,1103.1

  • Title (object)

    • Head of Hadrian
  • Description

    Bronze head of Hadrian, from a larger statue (one and a quarter times life-size). Hollow cast in the round. There is a break in the hair on the left side; a narrow crack runs from the left cheek, under the chin, and back halfway up the right cheek; a repair patch is missing on the front of the neck. The pupils of the eyes, probably of glass, are now lost. The head has been roughly hacked from its body.

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  • Culture/period

  • Date

    • 117-138
  • Findspot

  • Materials

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 430 millimetres
    • Weight: 16 kilograms (without block)
    • Weight: 26.5 kilograms (with block)
  • Curator's comments

    'This is a superb casting of the head of Hadrian, one of a mere handful of major bronze portraits of that emperor to have survived from antiquity. Hadrian, apparently aged arouund 30, is clearly recognisable from his incipient beard, moustache and distinctive physiognomy. However, the portrait is in an extremely provincial style, exemplified by the tightly bunched curvilinear hair, the large ears and the wide spacing of the eyes. The beard is lightly incised and, though curly looks wispy, while the stylised curls around the front of the head give way to simple incised locks further back' (CSIR I, 10, p. 115).

    Hadrian (reigned AD 117-138) is famous as the emperor who built the eighty-mile-long wall across Britain, from the Solway Firth to the River Tyne at Wallsend: 'to separate the barbarians from the Romans' in the words of his biographer. This head comes from a statue of Hadrian that probably stood in Roman London in a public space such as a forum. It would have been one and a quarter times life-size.

    The statue may have been put up to commemorate Hadrian's visit to Britain in AD 122; Hadrian travelled very extensively throughout the Empire, and imperial visits generally gave rise to programmes of rebuilding and beautification of cities. There are many known marble statues of him, but this example made in bronze is a rare survival.Opper 2008

    Wegner (1956), pp. 28, 57, 64, 101; Wegner (1984), p. 123; Potter (1997) p. 54, Evers (1994), no. 55; Lahusen & Formigli (2001), no. 114.'68% copper, 8.5% tin, 22.8% lead' (CSIR I, 10, p. 115).

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  • Bibliography

    • Opper 2008 38 bibliographic details
    • Lahusen & Formigli 2001 no. 114 bibliographic details
    • CSIR I, 10 no. 213 bibliographic details
    • Hobbs & Jackson 2010 p. 101, fig. 77 bibliographic details
    • Hobbs & Jackson 2010 p. 104, fig. 80 bibliographic details
    • Roman Britain 1964 p. 54, pl. 15.5 bibliographic details
    • Potter 1997 p.54 ; fig.36 bibliographic details
    • Parkinson 2013 pp. 116-17 bibliographic details
  • Location

    On display: G49/dc14

  • Exhibition history

    Exhibited:
    2015-2016 14 Dec-30 June, Jerusalem, The Israel Museum, Hadrian Bronzes: 50th Anniversary Loan. 2012 22 Jun-2013 22 Jan, Museum of London, Our Londinium 2012 2008 24 Jul-26 Aug, London, BM, 'Hadrian: Empire and Conflict' 2008 Apr 16-Jun 8 Wallsend, Segedunum Roman Fort, 'The Face of an Emperor-Hadrian Inspects the Wall' 2008 Feb 8-Apr 13, Carlisle, Tullie House, The Face of an Emperor-Hadrian Inspects the Wall'

  • Associated names

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date

    1848

  • Department

    Britain, Europe and Prehistory

  • Registration number

    1848,1103.1


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