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 (of 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 Corey 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 Corey 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 portrait, Museum, Nerva–Antonine dynasty, Roman Portraiture

The Nerva-Antonines in Copenhagen

The NY Carlsberg Glyptotek in Copenhagen has a spectacular imperial Roman sculpture gallery. Their collection of portraits of the members of the Nerva-Antonine dynasty is particularly impressive. The Nerva–Antonine dynasty was a dynasty of seven Roman Emperors who ruled from 96 AD to 192 AD. These Emperors were Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, Antoninus Pius, Marcus Aurelius,… Continue reading The Nerva-Antonines in Copenhagen

Marcus Aurelius, Nerva–Antonine dynasty, Roman Portraiture, SPQR

Felix dies natalis, Marce Aureli!

Marcus Aurelius was born Marcus Annius Verus on April 26, 121 AD of an aristocratic family of Spanish origin (from Ucubi, a small town southeast of Cordoba in Baetica). He was the last of the five "good" emperors of Rome and a major Stoic philosopher. When Marcus Aurelius was a young child he gained the attention… Continue reading Felix dies natalis, Marce Aureli!

Archaeology Travel, Asia Minor, Gladiator, Hadrian, Museum, Pisidia, Sagalassos, Turkey

The gladiator relief and other highlights from the Burdur Archaeological Museum (Pisidia, Turkey)

No visit to Sagalassos would be complete without checking the Archaeological Museum at Burdur, the provincial capital. Major finds from Sagalassos are housed in this museum which is located a short drive from the site. Photos of this magnificent archaeological site were posted in part 1 and part 2 of my piece on Sagalassos. The museum… Continue reading The gladiator relief and other highlights from the Burdur Archaeological Museum (Pisidia, Turkey)

Archaeology Travel, Asia Minor, Hadrian, Photography, Pisidia, Sagalassos, Turkey

Exploring Sagalassos – images from the city in the clouds (part 2 – Lower Agora)

As mentioned in part 1, Sagalassos made the headlines in the international press in 2007 and 2008, due to the unexpected discovery of three extraordinary statues of the emperors Hadrian, Marcus Aurelius and empress Faustina the Elder, wife of the emperor Antoninus Pius. The statues were originally located in the frigidarium, the coldest and largest room in the… Continue reading Exploring Sagalassos – images from the city in the clouds (part 2 – Lower Agora)