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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Epigraphy, Exhibition, Hadrian, Hadrian portrait, Museum

Exhibition: Three bronze portraits of Hadrian at the Louvre, Paris

Of the many bronze portraits of Hadrian that are known to have existed, only three have survived from antiquity. After the exhibition ‘Hadrian: An Emperor Cast in Bronze’ (see here) held at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem from December 2015 to June 2016, the Musée du Louvre is now inviting us to discover these exceptional… Continue reading Exhibition: Three bronze portraits of Hadrian at the Louvre, Paris

Hadrian's Villa, Roman Portraiture

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

Archaeology Travel, Asia Minor, Epigraphy, Galatia, Hadrian, Museum, Turkey

The cuirassed statue of Hadrian from Ancyra’s theatre (Ankara, Turkey)

Hadrian and his travels have often served as the guiding thread for my travels. However my recent trip to Turkey had a different focus, the Hittite civilization, with one of the highlights being a visit to the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations in Ankara. After dazzling at the magnificent artifacts on display on the main floor… Continue reading The cuirassed statue of Hadrian from Ancyra’s theatre (Ankara, Turkey)

Nerva–Antonine dynasty, Photography, Roman Portraiture

The Nerva-Antonines in Florence

The Galleria degli Uffizi in Florence is one of the oldest and most famous art museums in the world. In addition to Renaissance masterpieces including works from Botticelli, Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, the Uffizi houses one of the world’s most important collections of ancient Roman and Greek statues. The Medicis' interest in ancient art started… Continue reading The Nerva-Antonines in Florence

Hadrian, Hadrian portrait, Nerva–Antonine dynasty

Marble head of Hadrian with laurel wreath, from Carthage (North Africa), dating from circa 128 AD

Mixed portraiture type: Baiae & Imperatori 32. The photograph was taken during the exhibition "L'image et le pouvoir. Le siècle des Antonins" (Image and power. The age of the Antonines) at the Musée Saint-Raymond in Toulouse (France). The head is currently in storage at the Louvre, Paris. Inv. Ma 1187


Marble bust of Antinous, circa AD 130, Glyptothek Museum, Munich

The classical features of the face and body as well as the thick, curly hair are sensually rounded and smoothly formed. A strange melancholy pervades the completely impassive face.

Antinous, Hadrian, Hadrian portrait, Museum, Nerva–Antonine dynasty

Hadrian and his beloved Antinous, Glyptothek, Munich

Asia Minor, Hadrian, Hadrian portrait, Nerva–Antonine dynasty, Pamphylia, SPQR, Turkey

Statue of Hadrian wearing the Corona Civica (Civic Crown), from the North Nymphaeum at Perga, Antalya Museum

Inv. no. 3861-3863 Baiae portrait sculptural type. The emperor is depicted here as a nude hero. A paludamentum is draped over his left shoulder and arm. In his left hand is the sheath and sword and he wears a laurel wreath on his head.

Hadrian, Hadrian portrait, Nerva–Antonine dynasty, SPQR

Marble, colossal portrait head of the emperor Hadrian, found in Athens, AD 130-138, National Archaeological Museum of Athens

Colossal portrait head of the emperor Hadrian, made of pentelic marble. It was found in Athens. The emperor wears a wreath of oak leaves that end above his forehead in a medallion representing an eagle. The holes in the hoop of the wreath were used to inlay golden leaves. Height 0,55 m. Source More… Continue reading Marble, colossal portrait head of the emperor Hadrian, found in Athens, AD 130-138, National Archaeological Museum of Athens