Portraits of Hadrian

In search of the 150 surviving portraits of Hadrian… 115 portraits have been gathered so far.

Hadrian was a pleasant man to meet and he possessed a certain charm. Dio Cassius, 69, 2.6

Marble portrait bust of Emperor Hadrian, c.118-120, found in Hadrian’s villa at Tibur (modern Tivoli) near Rome, type Chiaramonti 392, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City
Cuirassed statue of Hadrian wearing the Corona Civica. From Perga, Antalya Museum.
Fragmentary bust of Hadrian, from the area of Santa Bibiana at Termini station, ca. 117-120, Palazzo Massimo alle Terme, Rome
Bust of Hadrian (Chiaramonti 392 type), from Hadrian’s Mausoleum, possibly created following the emperor’s death in 138 AD, Vatican Museums


Silver dish decorated with a bust of Hadrian in high relief, around AD 130. Private Collection.
Hadrian as ruler of the world: Sardonyx cameo depicting an allegorical triumph of Hadrian crowned by Roma in a chariot pulled by eagles, originally made for Claudius around 50 AD and the head later reworked into a portrait of Hadrian in 117-118 AD, Altes Museum
Bust of Hadrian from the Al Thani Collection. The head, made of chalcedony, dates to the reign of the emperor, though the beard was recarved at the court of Frederick II in the middle of the 13th century. The bust dates to the second half of the 16th century and the socle c. 1850.

Map of the current locations of the surviving portraits of Hadrian based on “Les portraits d’Hadrien: typologie et ateliers” Cécile Evers & German Archaeological Institute (DAI) http://arachne.uni-koeln.de/

23 thoughts on “Portraits of Hadrian”

  1. Dear Carole, the location of San Fruttuoso, near Genova, Italy, is incorrect: the Marble head inside the wall belongs to Antoninus Pius not Hadrian. Perhaps you may find most portraits of the Emperor around Genova, over the monumental portals of aristochratic mansions and in the Museum of S.Agostino.

  2. Hey Carol, do you know which one of these is the earliest? I can see a lot of difference in age and weight in how Hadrian is portrayed.

  3. Well done!! BRAVO! Do you know how the roman artists worked? Many of them had of course never seen the emperor himself? The camera wasn`t invented, neither printing tecniques for spreading pictures of the face. Did they have plaster copies of a famaous sculpture to copy??

    1. Could you please tell me which ones are not Hadrian and which one is his father? The only doubt I have is about the portrait of Hadrian from Apollonia. I have never heard of a surviving portrait of Publius Aelius Hadrianus Afer. Is it one from from Hadrian’s Mausoleum?

  4. In my collection I have a bronze head of Hadrian from the 16th century. It derives from the plaster preserved in the Archaeological Museum of Padua…

  5. I love your marvellous blog and photographs and share your interest with the great and fascinating Hadrian.

    By far the best portrait I have seen is the appropriately larger than life bronze in the Istanbul Archeological museum. Its a work of the highest quality imaginable, really marvellous, with the patterned and textured material of which the toga is made marvellously captured. Standing, as you must, just below it is I fancy rather like being in the divine presence of the terrifying man himself.

    No photo does it justice and its a great museum so just go


    Many thanks

    1. Hi Richard, thank you for your comment. I have seen and photographed this statue but it may have been misidentified as Hadrian. Indeed, scholars specialised in Hadrian’s portraiture think that it is not representing Hadrian. It was the custom for high ranking officials to be portrayed with the same features of the Emperor.

      1. Yes I actually noticed this after I had located that very poor image and sent my message to you. I jad thought it it very unlikely that you hadnt seen the statue, and was altogether rather embarassed that an ancient wealthy vulgarian had fooled me. Perhaps it was the Merchant who is recorded as having loaned the imperial retinue his deluxe shipping for one of Hadrians Anatolian journeys.

        Having said that I would be very interested to see the analysis that leads to the conclusion that it might be another official. I wasnt aware of the practice, are there prominent examples? In general I would have thought it quite a hazardous course to follow, as I have always understood that, as with the Tudors, control of the image was carefully policed; and the facial similarity to Hadrian is so strong as to make it rather a curious means of boosting ones dignitas.

        Questions of attribution in art history are notoriously fraught with academic feuding and controversy. Theres a very amusing article about the modern process of attribution by Brian Sewell somewhere.


  6. Dear Carole,

    This is a most delightful project! Many thanks for doing and sharing this. I’m an aerospace engineer, but I dabble in things a bit related, and as part of that, I photograph busts of Roman emperors. I have three of Hadrian that are not in your collection and I’m happy to freely share if you’d like them.

    Also, I’ll add a little teaser, there’s a location of a Hadrian bust that is not on your map… 🙂

    Thanks again. This is just wonderful.

    1. Dear Joseph,
      Thank you for your kind words. I would love to see your photographs of Hadrian’s portraits and I am really intrigued about the location of a Hadrian bust that is not on my map.

    1. Yes, indeed! Although there is no proof that Hadrian visited Crete, the island has yielded many busts and cuirassed statues of him! 2 portraits are now in the Louvre (Paris and Abu Dhabi), 2 in the Heraklion Museum, 1 in Knossos, 2 in the Chania Museum, 1 in the Kissamos Museum, 1 in the Istanbul Museum, 1 in Venice.

      1. It is highly unlikely that he did not visit Crete even if the physical evidence is not there. The statues of him from the Diktynna sanctuary (in the Chania museum) suggest that he must have visited the sanctuary at some point (he did love ancient deities) and the port on Gortyn would have probably been a stop during his trip from Egypt to Greece in AD 130. There are simply too many lacunae in our records and I hope some of them will be filled. Great job with the site. And greetings from Crete, by the way! 🙂

      2. I also strongly believe that Hadrian did visit Crete. Did you see my article about the temple of Diktynna?

  7. Wasn’t Hadrian a handsome man? <3

    I think the sardonyx gem and the one of him as Diomedes are close likenesses but they probably do not depict him. On stylistic grounds, they don't seem to date to the second century AD. Also, there are some great portraits of him in American collections that are not included here and which I can send you a few photos of later.

  8. Hello! I also love taking pictures of Hadrian, and would love to add a couple to the list – there is a great bust at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, and there’s a more modern interpretation (like from the 18th century) at the Archaeological Museum in Venice. I’d be happy to send pictures if you’d like!

  9. Hi Carole,

    I sent you an email to “Marge”. I hope I sent it to the correct place. Again I will say,WOW! What a fun project you have going. It will be a wonderful reference guide for me and my son when we go “Hadrian hunting”!! Did you ever get to see the life-size statue of Hadrian at the Iberia Bank in New Iberia, Louisiana? It sold in 2008 for $902,500 plus premium. I never heard where it ended up. Please let us know where its new home is if you have this info. All the best, T. Hadrian

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