About This Artwork

Roman

Portrait Head of Emperor Hadrian, A.D. 130/138

Marble
36 x 27.5 x 27.3 cm (14 1/4 x 10 7/8 x 10 3/4 in.)

Katherine K. Adler Memorial Fund, 1979.350

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.

— Entry, Essential Guide, 2013, p. 73.


The Roman emperor Hadrian (A.D. 76–138) was a great admirer of the Greeks. Unlike previous emperors, who were clean-shaven, 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 typically done.

—Permanent collection label


This work appears in the online catalogue Roman Art at the Art Institute of Chicago, featuring art historical essays and conservation reports on artworks from the ancient Roman world in the Art Institute’s collection. Entries include new high-resolution photography, stunning 360-degree views of the works, and in-depth technical imaging and analysis. The volume is free to the public.

Exhibition, Publication and Ownership Histories

Exhibition History

Art Institute of Chicago, Sculpture From the Classical Collection, Gallery 101A, September 1, 1987-August 31, 1988, no cat.

The Art Institute of Chicago, Classical Art from the Permanent Collection, February 1989-February 17, 1990, no cat.

Art Institute of Chicago, Private Taste in Ancient Rome: Selections from Chicago Collections, March 3–September 16, 1990, cat. 10.

Art Institute of Chicago, Ancient Art Galleries, Gallery 156, April 20, 1994-February 6, 2012.

Art Institute of Chicago, Of Gods and Glamour: The Mary and Michael Jaharis Galleries of Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Art, Gallery 152, November 11, 2012-present.

Art Institute of Chicago, A Portrait of Antinous, in Two Parts, Gallery 154, April 2 - September 5, 2016.

Publication History

Katharine A. Raff, “Cat. 6 Portrait Head of Emperor Hadrian: Curatorial Entry,” in Roman Art at the Art Institute of Chicago (Art Institute of Chicago, 2016).

Rachel C. Sabino, with contributions by Lorenzo Lazzarini, “Cat. 6 Portrait Head of Emperor Hadrian: Technical Report,” in Roman Art at the Art Institute of Chicago (Art Institute of Chicago, 2016).

Karen B. Alexander, “From Plaster to Stone: Ancient Art at the Art Institute of Chicago,” in Recasting the Past: Collecting and Presenting Antiquities at the Art Institute of Chicago, ed. Karen Manchester (Art Institute of Chicago, 2012), pp. 32; 39, n. 134.

The Art Institute of Chicago. The Essential Guide. (Art Institute of Chicago, 2013), p. 73.

Art Institute of Chicago, Art Institute of Chicago: Pocketguide (Art Institute of Chicago, 2009), p. 23, fig. 44.

Jeff Ruby, “The Closer: Second Looks,” Chicago (June 2006), p. 228 (ill.).

Cornelius C. Vermeule III, “Faces of Empire (Julius Caesar to Justinian),” Celator 19, 12 (Dec. 2005), p. 22, fig. 2.

Cornelius C. Vermeule III, “Roman Imperial Persons in North America,” Celator 17, 12 (Dec. 2003), p. 30.

Art Institute of Chicago, Treasures from the Art Institute of Chicago, selected by James N. Wood, commentaries by Debra N. Mancoff (Art Institute of Chicago, 2000), p. 72 (ill.).

Art Institute of Chicago, Pocketguide, selected by James N. Wood (Art Institute of Chicago, 1997), p. 9, fig. 13.

Karen Alexander, “The New Galleries of Ancient Art at the Art Institute of Chicago,” Minerva 5, 3 (May–June 1994), p. 34, fig. 12.

Cornelius C. Vermeule III, “Roman Art,” in “Ancient Art at the Art Institute of Chicago,” special issue, Art Institute of Chicago Museum Studies 20, 1 (1994), p. 70, cat. 47 (ill.).

Cécile Evers, Les portraits d’Hadrien: Typologie et ateliers (Académie Royale de Belgique, 1994), pp. 102, cat. 29; 259; 261; 263–64; 315, fig. 46; 316, fig. 48, 317.

Art Institute of Chicago, The Art Institute of Chicago: The Essential Guide, selected by James N. Wood and Teri J. Edelstein, entries written and compiled by Sally Ruth May (Art Institute of Chicago, 1993), pp. 94–95 (ill.).

Karen Alexander and Mary Greuel, Private Taste in Ancient Rome: Selections from Chicago Collections, exh. brochure (Art Institute of Chicago, 1990), cat. 10.

Art Institute of Chicago, Pocketguide to the Art Institute of Chicago (Art Institute of Chicago, 1988), p. 9, fig. 13.

Klaus Fittschen and Paul Zanker, Katalog der römischen Porträts in den Capitolinischen Museen und den anderen Kommunalen Sammlungen der Stadt Rom, Band I: Kaiser- und Prinzenbildnisse (Zabern, 1985), p. 58, n. 1 [This book gives an incorrect accession number in reference to the work: 1979.360 instead of 1979.350].

Max Wegner, “Verzeichnis der Bildnisse von Hadrian und Sabina.” Boreas: Münstersche Beiträge zur Archäologie 7 (1984), p. 113.

Art Institute of Chicago, Pocketguide to the Art Institute of Chicago (Art Institute of Chicago, 1983), p. 17, fig. 13.

Cornelius C. Vermuele III, Greek and Roman Sculpture in America: Masterpieces in Public Collections in the United States and Canada (University of California Press, 1981), p. 309, fig. 265.

Art Institute of Chicago, “Recent Accessions in the Department of Classical Art,” Bulletin of the Art Institute of Chicago 74, 1 (Jan.–Mar. 1980), p. 8 (ill.).

Art Institute of Chicago, “Report of the President,” Art Institute of Chicago Annual Report 1978–79 (Art Institute of Chicago, 1979), p. 12 (ill.).

Art Institute of Chicago, “Acquisitions,” Art Institute of Chicago Annual Report 1978–79 (Art Institute of Chicago, 1979), p. 35.




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