Head from a statue of the emperor Hadrian
117—138 CE.
Height 43 cm, weight 16 kg (without block).
Inv. No. 1848,1103.1.London, British Museum

Head from a statue of the emperor Hadrian.

117—138 CE.
Height 43 cm, weight 16 kg (without block).
Inv. No. 1848,1103.1.

London, British Museum.

Found in the River Thames near London Bridge (1834).
Bronze head of Hadrian, from a larger statue (one and a quarter times life-size). Hollow cast in the round. There is a break in the hair on the left side; a narrow crack runs from the left cheek, under the chin, and back halfway up the right cheek; a repair patch is missing on the front of the neck. The pupils of the eyes, probably of glass, are now lost. The head has been roughly hacked from its body.

“This is a superb casting of the head of Hadrian, one of a mere handful of major bronze portraits of that emperor to have survived from antiquity. Hadrian, apparently aged around 30, is clearly recognisable from his incipient beard, moustache and distinctive physiognomy. However, the portrait is in an extremely provincial style, exemplified by the tightly bunched curvilinear hair, the large ears and the wide spacing of the eyes. The beard is lightly incised and, though curly looks wispy, while the stylised curls around the front of the head give way to simple incised locks further back” (CSIR I, 10, p. 115).

Hadrian (reigned AD 117-138) is famous as the emperor who built the eighty-mile-long wall across Britain, from the Solway Firth to the River Tyne at Wallsend: ’to separate the barbarians from the Romans’ in the words of his biographer. This head comes from a statue of Hadrian that probably stood in Roman London in a public space such as a forum. It would have been one and a quarter times life-size.

The statue may have been put up to commemorate Hadrian’s visit to Britain in AD 122; Hadrian travelled very extensively throughout the Empire, and imperial visits generally gave rise to programmes of rebuilding and beautification of cities. There are many known marble statues of him, but this example made in bronze is a rare survival. (Opper 2008).

Wegner (1956), pp. 28, 57, 64, 101; Wegner (1984), p. 123; Potter (1997) p. 54, Evers (1994), no. 55; Lahusen & Formigli (2001), no. 114.’68% copper, 8.5% tin, 22.8% lead’ (CSIR I, 10, p. 115).

Thorsten Opper, Hadrian: Empire and Conflict, London, BMP, 2008, 38.
G. Lahusen, E. Formigli, Römische Bildnisse aus Bronze. Kunst und Technik, Munich, Hirmer, 2001, no. 114.
P. Coombe, F. Grew, K. Hayward, M. Henig, Roman Sculpture from London and the South-east, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2015 (CSIR I, 10), no. 213.
R. Hobbs, R. Jackson, Roman Britain Life at the Edge of Empire, London, BMP, 2010, p. 101, fig. 77.
R. Hobbs, R. Jackson, Roman Britain Life at the Edge of Empire, London, BMP, 2010, p. 104, fig. 80.
British Museum Department of British & Medieval Antiquities, Guide to the Antiquities of Roman Britain, London, BMP, 1964, p. 54, pl. 15. 5.
T. W. Potter, Roman Britiain, London, BMP, 1997, p. 54, fig.36.
R. B. Parkinson, A little gay history. Desire and diversity across the world, London, British Museum Press, 2013, pp. 116—117.
(cc) 2019. Photo, text: The British Museum (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0).
Keywords: απεικόνιση portrait portraiture ritratto ritrattistica porträtmalerei porträt of a man male maschile uomo männliches mann masculin un homme portraitkopf roman romana römisches romain αυτοκρατορικό imperial imperiale kaiserliches impérial ρωμαίος αυτοκράτορας πόπλιος αίλιος αδριανός imperator publius aelius hadrianus emperor hadrian imperatore romano publio elio adriano römischer kaiser empereur hadrien antonine dynasty adoptive emperors dinastia degli antonini imperatori adottivi d’adozione antoninische dynastie adoptivkaiser antonins γλυπτική sculptura sculpture sculptural scultura skulptur ρωμαϊκό romani römisch römische römischen romaine romains romaines χάλκινο bronze bronzo bronzeo bronzen κεφάλι κεφαλή head testa kopf tête beard bearded barba barbuto bart bärtiger barbe barbu barbatum γενειάδα γενειοφόρος άνθρωπος inv no 1848 1103 1