A lapis lazuli unguentarium in the form of a bust
in all possibility representing the Emperor
Hadrian is portrayed in full regalia according to
his first official portrait representation as Emperor,
after seizing power in 117 A.D.
The bust, regardless of its minute dimensions,
captures with accuracy all the typical facial traits
Hadrian: a short and perfectly trimmed beard, as
was in fashion among the Greek philosophers
intellectuals of the time, and a very defined hair
style, with delicate curly waves, which give the
portrait a particularly realistic effect.
the first Roman Emperor to adopt the use of the
long beard, a distinctive symbol of his admiration
the Greek culture and philosophy.
He is wearing a cuirass with two braces strapped
the front and adorned with the Gorgon’s head on
The bust is framed by a simple round gold band
both the upper part and the base, which we deem to have been added at a later stage.
Lapis Lazuli was
much prized during antiquity for its intense colour
Born in 76 A.D into a Hispano-Roman family
to the Emperor Trajan, he was officially adopted
him in 117 A.D., when Trajan was proclaimed
himself Emperor under the name of Imperator
Caesar Traianus Hadrianus Augustus.
Hadrian is reputed for his numerous and lengthy
journeys in the Roman Provinces, for his
architectural projects and for his devotion to his
lover Antinous; he died in 138 A.D after formally
adopting his successor Antoninus Pius.
This splendid unguentarium (small container for
scented oil) it is a superb example of the
craftsmanship of Roman artists and of their
excellence for realism in portraits.
Bibl: J. J. Bernoulli, Röm. Ikon., II, 2, p. 105 ss.;
West, Römische Porträt-Plastik, Monaco 1933, II,
111 ss.; B. M. Felletti Maj, Un nuovo ritratto di
Adriano, in Arti Figurative, II, 1946, p. 22 ss.; J.
Beiträge zum Bildnis Kaiser Hadrians, in Arch.
1955, c. 69 ss.; M. Wegner, Das römische
Herrscherbild-Hadrian, Berlino 1956 (catalogo e
precedente bibl. a p. 92 ss.). Monete: H.
Coins of the Roman Empire in the Brit. Museum,
Londra 1936, p. 236 ss.; P. L. Strack, Römische
Reichsprägung des zweiten Jahrhunderts, I,
Stoccarda 1931, p. 230 ss.; II, Hadrian,
1933; A. Levi Calò, Adrian as King of Egypt, in
Numismatic Chronicle, VIII, 1948, p. 30 ss.
(B. M. Felletti Maj)