About this artwork
Of all the Roman emperors, Hadrian (r. a.d. 117–38) is the one whose portrait is most frequently found, all across the empire from Britain to Persia, from Asia Minor to Egypt. Furthermore, among all his portraits, few equal this likeness in conveying the complex character of the emperor who inherited the Roman world at its greatest extent from his fellow Spaniard Trajan (r. a.d. 98–117). Hadrian traveled widely, visiting most of the provinces during the twenty years of his reign, and commissioned buildings, aqueducts, and roads in many cities. Citizens responded to Hadrian’s generosity by erecting numerous statues in his honor, and after his death they revered him as a god.
Hadrian greatly admired the Greeks. Unlike previous emperors, who were cleanshaven, Hadrian wore a beard, perhaps in emulation of the Greek philosophers whom he so revered. Here Hadrian’s closely cropped beard contrasts with the thick, luxurious curls that frame his face. This sculpture also features an innovative trend in Roman portraiture: the artist carefully sculpted the irises and pupils of the eyes rather than rendering them in paint as was conventional.
- On View, Gallery 152
- Arts of the Ancient Mediterranean and Byzantium
- Ancient Roman
- Portrait Head of Emperor Hadrian
- Italy (Object made in)
- 130 CE–200 CE
- 36 × 27.5 × 27.3 cm (14 1/4 × 10 7/8 × 10 3/4 in.)
- Katherine K. Adler Memorial Fund