Roman Portraiture, Rome, Uncategorized

NEW: An unnoticed portrait of Hadrian’s first heir, L. Aelius Caesar, in Rome’s Casino Aurora?

Did I make a great discovery in the Ludovisi collection of Roman antiquities?

While in Rome at the beginning of November, Corey Brennan (Associate Professor of Classics at Rutgers University), who generously invited me to stay at the American Academy of Rome, brought me to the Casino of the Villa Ludovisi (also known as Villa Aurora) for a private tour of the property, established in the 16th century by Cardinal Francesco Maria Del Monte and later bought by Cardinal Ludovico Ludovisi. I was very excited to hear about the great work Brennan had done in the Villa with the collaboration of Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi who resides there. I was also of course very excited to get to see the only Caravaggio ceiling ever painted.

Never would have I imagined that I was about to make the discovery (still to be confirmed by experts) of an unnoticed sculptural head of Hadrian’s intended successor Lucius Aelius Caesar. The bust had been universally identified as “Marcus Aurelius” since 1880 (or maybe even 1633). But immediately after entering the Villa, I noticed the bust and thought, “wow, it’s Aelius Caesar!” Then Brennan told me that the bust was supposed to be Marcus Aurelius, and I immediately replied “It’s not Marcus Aurelius”, “I think it’s Lucius Aelius Caesar”.

However, this discovery now requires much study from experts to secure the identification of this Boncompagni Ludovisi bust as that of Lucius Aelius Caesar.

Exciting times!

Archivio Digitale Boncompagni Ludovisi

The Sala Aurora of the Casino Aurora, with frescoes by Guercino and Agostino Tassi (1621). The bust in question is in the niche at far left. Photo: David Neal Brennan

By ADBL editor Corey Brennan with Carole Raddato

Picture this. On a bright November 2019 morning, ancient history enthusiast Carole Raddato made her first visit to Rome’s Casino Aurora, to meet with HSH Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi. Raddato was on the lookout for new items to add to her ambitious Following Hadriantravel and photography project, as well as to see the Casino Aurora’s famed Caravaggio ceiling painting ‘Giove, Nettuno e Plutone‘.

No sooner had Raddato entered the vestibule of the Casino Aurora that she spotted, 10 meters away in an oval niche above the principal door of the main sala, a fine bust of a bearded Roman.

Lucius Aelius Caesar”, she immediately thought.

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Hadrian's Villa, Roman Egypt, Uncategorized

Art and sculptures from Hadrian’s Villa: Osiris-Canopus jar

This month’s sculpture from Hadrian’s Villa is a grey basalt Osiris-Canopus jar. The vase represents a form of the Egyptian god Osiris depicted as a jar topped by a human head known as Osiris-Hydreios, or commonly Osiris-Canopus because it was originally exclusively connected to the Canopic region of Egypt. It was discovered in the middle… Continue reading Art and sculptures from Hadrian’s Villa: Osiris-Canopus jar


Art and sculptures from Hadrian’s Villa: Herms of Tragedy and Comedy

This month’s sculptures from Hadrian’s Villa are a pair of marble herms whose heads are traditionally identified as Tragedy and Comedy. According to the Italian archaeologist Giovanni Battista Visconti, both herms were found in 1735 by the owner of the Villa, Giuseppe Fede, near the entrance of the Greek Theatre. It was acquired in 1777 by Conte… Continue reading Art and sculptures from Hadrian’s Villa: Herms of Tragedy and Comedy


Annum novum faustum felicem vobis!

I would like to wish you all a happy, prosperous and inspiring New Year! Here are some New Year's wishes from a Roman oil lamp which was traditionally given as present for New Year’s Day. This Roman lamp was made in Italy in around 50-100 AD to celebrate the New Year. On the discus, a… Continue reading Annum novum faustum felicem vobis!


Following Hadrian 2015: A Year in Review

The Team prepared a 2015 annual report. 2015 was another great year for my Following Hadrian blog. Let’s revisit some of the most important moments of the year. 'The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 150,000 times in 2015. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre… Continue reading Following Hadrian 2015: A Year in Review


Felix dies natalis, Hadriane!


2014 in review by WordPress

The Team prepared a 2014 annual report for my blog Following Hadrian. I love how this report compares the number of views of my blog to the number of people seeing an exhibit at the Louvre! The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 110,000 times in 2014. If… Continue reading 2014 in review by WordPress


Felix dies natalis, Septimi Severe!


Septimius Severus was born on 11 April 145 in the African city of Leptis Magna, whose magnificent ruins are located in modern-day Libya, 130 miles east of Tripoli.

Marble bust of Septimius Severus of the Serapis style (the four “separis curls” falling into his forehead go back to a cult image of the Egyptian god Serapis)
Altes Museum Berlin
© Carole Raddato

Although Severus was not a member of the Antonine Dynasty, he and his descendants had close ties with the Antonine emperors. Severus’ grandfather was a duumvir under Trajan, his cousins received suffect consulships in Rome under Antoninus Pius and his own career flourished under Marcus Aurelius and Commodus. 

Septimius Severus, dates to the years after 195 AD Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen © Carole Raddato Septimius Severus, dates to the years after 195 AD
Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen
© Carole Raddato

But it does not stop here, Severus entered the Antonine Dynasty by declaring that he was Marcus Aurelius’ son. Not surprisingly, all official portraits of the emperor depict him with…

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Nerva–Antonine dynasty, Uncategorized

Portrait of Empress Sabina (wife of Hadrian), ca. 130 AD, Altes Museum (Berlin)

Vibia Sabina (83-136 A.D.), a relative of Trajan, was married very young to the future emperor, Hadrian.  The comparison with coins, physiognomy, hairstyle and diadem allows for the portrait's identification as the Empress Sabina.