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

Exhibition, Publication and Ownership Histories

Exhibition History

The Art Institute of Chicago, Sculpture From the Classical Collection, Gallery 101A, September 1, 1987-August 31, 1988.

The Art Institute of Chicago, Classical Art from the Permanent Collection, February 1989-February 1990

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

The 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.

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

Publication History

Art Institute of Chicago Annual Report 1978-79, p. 35.

Alexander, Karen and Mary Greuel. 1990. Private Taste in Ancient Rome: Selections from Chicago Collections, n.pag.(n.10).

Alexander, Karen B. 2012. "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, by Karen Manchester (Art Institute of Chicago/Yale University Press, 2012), p. 32, 39.

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




View mobile website