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Portrait Head of Emperor Hadrian

The white head of a man with a blank expression, a missing nose that has broken off, low cheekbones, curly hair, and a close-cut wavy beard.
CC0 Public Domain Designation

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  • The white head of a man with a blank expression, a missing nose that has broken off, low cheekbones, curly hair, and a close-cut wavy beard.





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)

Date  Dates are not always precisely known, but the Art Institute strives to present this information as consistently and legibly as possible. Dates may be represented as a range that spans decades, centuries, dynasties, or periods and may include qualifiers such as c. (circa) or BCE.

130 CE–200 CE




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

Credit Line

Katherine K. Adler Memorial Fund

Reference Number


IIIF Manifest  The International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF) represents a set of open standards that enables rich access to digital media from libraries, archives, museums, and other cultural institutions around the world.

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Extended information about this artwork

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