- Museum number
- Object: Head of Hadrian
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.
- Production date
Height: 430 millimetres
Weight: 26.50 kilograms (with block)
Weight: 16 kilograms (without block)
Width: 360 millimetres
Depth: 340 millimetres
- 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.
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).
- On display (G49/dc14)
- Exhibition history
2018 20 Jun-10 Dec, France, Paris, Musée du Louvre, Hadrian: An Emperor Cast in Bronze
2018, 6 May- 30 June, National Museum, New Delhi, India and the World: A History in Nine Stories
2017-2018, 10 Nov 2017 - 18 Feb 2018, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS), Mumbai, India, India and the World: A History in Nine Stories
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'
- Acquisition date
- Britain, Europe and Prehistory
- Registration number