Portrait Head of Emperor Hadrian

A work made of marble.
CC0 Public Domain Designation

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  • A work made of marble.


AD 130/138



About this artwork

Of all the Roman emperors, Hadrian (r. AD 117–38) is the one whose portrait is most frequently found, 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 Trajan (r. AD 98–117). Hadrian traveled widely, spending more than half of his twenty-one-year reign outside of Italy visiting the provinces, and he com-missioned buildings, aqueducts, and roads in many cities. Citizens responded to his generosity by erecting numerous statues in his honor, and after his death he was deified and revered as a god.

Hadrian greatly admired the Greeks. Unlike previous emperors, who were clean-shaven, he wore a beard, perhaps in emulation of the Greek philosophers whom he so revered. Here his closely cropped beard contrasts with the thick, luxurious curls that frame his face. The eyes were enlivened through the drilling of pupils and the incising of irises, innovative features that were introduced into portraiture during his reign, likely around AD 130.

On View

Ancient and Byzantine Art, Gallery 152


Ancient Roman


Portrait Head of Emperor Hadrian




130 AD–200 AD




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


Extended information about this artwork

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