Colossal portrait of Hadrian (140 A.D.)
The head reproduces the features of the elderly emperor. The provenance of the portrait from the Palazzo Borghese at Campo Marzio in Rome is confirmed by both the archaeologist Johann Joachim Winckelmann and the inventory of the palace’s furnishings compiled in 1812, when Camillo Borghese offered the Bourbon king Charles IV hospitality. The sculpture’s interest lies in the fact that, at an early date, it was studied by historians of antique art. Winckelmann considered it to be the best surviving portrait of Emperor Hadrian. However, in reality it is an idealized reworking of previous types intended to apotheosize the emperor after his death in A.D. 138.
The plinth is the central part of the front of the sarcophagus already mentioned with regard to the other sections in this hall and to which reference will be made later. In the lower part of the slab is a large garland of fruit and flowers; above, on a dolphin, is a Nereid holding, in her outstretched right hand, one end of the mantle visible under her right thigh. In her left hand she is clasping a cuirass. The drapery and the pose are so similar to that of the Nereid with Achilles’ cuirass on the sarcophagus of the Belvedere in the Vatican Museums — also dating from Hadrian’s reign — that the workshop is likely to have been the same.