Art and sculptures from Hadrian’s Villa: Imperial portraits of Hadrian’s successors

This month’s sculptures from Hadrian’s Villa are portraits of Roman emperors and empresses who rose to power after Hadrian.

After the death of Hadrian in 138 AD, the villa was occasionally used by his various successors. Busts of the emperors Antoninus Pius, Marcus Aurelius, Lucius Verus, Septimius Severus and Caracalla have been found on the premises of the Villa.

Portrait of Antoninus Pius, from Hadrian’s Villa, c. 161 AD.
Palazzo Massimo alle Terme, Rome
Colossal portrait of Faustina the Elder (wife of Antoninus Pius), from the Pantanello at Hadrian’s Villa, 138-140 AD.
Vatican Museums, Rome
Portrait of Marcus Aurelius, from Hadrian’s Villa, 160-169 AD.
Palazzo Massimo alle Terme, Rome
Portrait of empress Faustina the Younger (daughter of Antoninus Pius and wife of Marcus Aurelius).
Musei Capitolini, Rome
Portrait of Bruttia Crispina, wife of Commodus, from Hadrian’s Villa, c. 178 AD.
Palazzo Massimo alle Terme, Rome
Portrait of Caracalla, from Hadrian’s Villa.
Palazzo Massimo alle Terme, Rome

Two more imperial portraits are on display in the Antiquarium of the Canopus at Hadrian’s Villa. Since photography is not permitted in the museum, I do not have any images for them. However you can see the portrait of Septimius Severus here and of his wife Julia Domna here. The portrait of Lucius Verus is on display in the Hermitage in St Petersburg.

Frescoes on the ceiling of one of the rooms of the West Substructures of the Canopus dating from Septimius Severus’ reign have also been found. These further attest the use of the Villa as an Imperial residence at least until the Severan dynasty in the early 3rd century.


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