An over life-size Parian marble statue of Antinous restored as Ganymede can be admired at the Lady Lever Art Gallery at Port Sunlight on the Wirral (near Liverpool, UK).
Rediscovered in the late 18th century during a revival of interest for the Classical World, the statue of Antinous was purchased in Italy in 1796 by Thomas Hope, a Dutch and British art collector, on his extensive Grand Tour through Europe, Egypt and Turkey. Thomas Hope shipped it to England to his London residence on Duchess Street where it was displayed between 1804 and 1849 alongside many other classical antique sculptures. After Hope’s death in 1831, the statue was moved to the family’s country residence in Surrey where it stood until the beginning of the 20th century. The statue was eventually bought at an auction in 1917 by the philanthropist and famous soap manufacturer Lord Leverhulme, who founded and built the Lady Lever Art Gallery.
Prior to its transfer to England, the Antinous statue had been restored in Rome by the Papal sculptor Giovanni Pierantoni (who also restored the Braschi Antinous) between 1794 and 1796 and was said to had been found in Roma Vecchia (“Old Rome”). The statue was in fragmentary condition when it arrived in Pierantoni’s workshop; the lower left leg and the lower parts of both arms were missing. Pierantoni restored the missing limbs and added the cup in the right hand and the jug in the left, turning the figure into Ganymede, a young Trojan prince who was carried off to Olympus by Zeus to be his lover and cup-bearer of the gods. Both Antinous and Ganymede are legendary for their beauty and their roles as younger partners in a homoerotic relationship.
In the 18th century, it was common practice to add iconographical attributes to newly discovered ancient sculptures, as was allegorical portraiture (a living person depicted as a Greco-Roman god/goddess or other mythological figure) in the Hellenistic and Roman periods. Antinous himself had been represented in many different divine and mythological guises such as Dionysus, Osiris, Apollo or as Silvanus.
Around 100 portraits have been identified as Antinous, more than any other figure from antiquity apart from Augustus and Hadrian himself. Images of Antinous were everywhere; on cameos, oil-lamps and bowls as well as colossal statues, busts and reliefs, while more than 30 provincial cities issued coinage stamped with his name and image. Nearly 2000 years later, Antinous’ beauty can still be admired in most classical collection of antiquities throughout the world.
Sources and references:
- The myth of return: restoration as reception in eighteenth-century Rome by Jessica Hughes (pdf)
- Sculpting Antinous by Bryan E. Burns (pdf)