June 23, 2008

Re-viewing Hadrian

A cherished image of the Roman emperor Hadrian as a gentle, philosophical man wearing the robes of a Greek citizen has been shattered with one blow of a conservator's chisel at the British Museum.

The head, with its neatly trimmed beard and fringe of exquisitely crimped curls, is certainly Hadrian but it seems the body it has been attached to for almost 150 years belongs to somebody else. The statue, a unique piece that has been cited in many biographies of Hadrian as proof of his love for Greek culture and customs, and illustrated countless times, is an ingenious Victorian confection.

Full story here. The restoration work was being undertaken in anticipation of the British Museum's exhibition, Hadrian: Empire and Conflict, opening in a month.

Posted by David on June 23, 2008 10:14 AM


The fact that this particular head does not belong to that particular body still doesn't tell us much about the iconography of Hadrian as a philhellene. We have to either posit that we know everything about his programs and such figures were not done, or perhaps modestly admit that such iconography was within reason but we still haven't found any extant examples.

Posted by: JHSibal on July 15, 2008 6:31 PM
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