A Portrait of Antinous, in Two Parts

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by Art Institute of Chicago

June 16, 2016 – The Art Institute of Chicago shows two portraits of Antinous, the favorite of Roman Emperor Hadrian. Together with that masterpiece other items like coins on loan from the American Numismatic Society (ANS) try to cast a light on the historical figure. The display in Gallery 154 runs through August 28, 2016.

Fragment of a Portrait Head of Antinous, mid-2nd century A.D. Roman. Gift of Mrs. Charles L. Hutchinson.

An exceptionally beautiful Greek youth, Antinous was a favorite of Roman Emperor Hadrian. Following the young man’s mysterious death by drowning in the Nile River, Antinous was proclaimed a god, and portraits of him appeared across the Roman Empire.

Bust of Antinous, mid-2nd century A.D. Roman, with 18th-century restorations. Museo Nazionale Romano, Palazzo Altemps, Rome, 8620. Archivio Fotografico SS-Col, num. 589475. Photo by Stefano Castellani.

This focused exhibition unites two marbles portraying Antinous – which recent discoveries reveal were originally one. After years of careful study, an international collaboration among the Art Institute of Chicago, the Palazzo Altemps Museum in Rome, and the University of Chicago determined that the Art Institute’s fragment of a portrait of Antinous was originally the face of the Altemps’s bust. (That bust received a replacement face by the mid-18th century.)


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The centerpiece of the exhibition is a reconstruction of the original statue combining the two parts, showing how the statue would have appeared in antiquity. Laser scanning and three-dimensional printing were used to produce a mold from which the plaster replica was created. 

Bronze Coin, Ancyra, AD 138-161. ID 1944.100.62226. © Photo: American Numismatic Society.

Among the pieces on display are also four bronze coins on loan from the ANS, a coin minted in Mantinea, another one from Ancyra, and two drachms from Alexandreia.

Bronze Coin, Mantineia, AD 130. ID 1967.152.356. © Photo: American Numismatic Society.

This very 21st-century plaster cast, together with both ancient works – the Art Institute’s face and the Altemps’s bust – and additional information present new and intriguing stories about these sculptures and the fascinating subject they depict.

Bronze Drachm, Alexandreia, AD 134-135. ID 1944.100.58531. © Photo: American Numismatic Society.

Support for this exhibition is provided by Fred Eychaner and the Jaharis Family Foundation, Inc.

This article is published by courtesy of Art Institute of Chicago.

For more information on this display go to the website of the Art Institute of Chicago.

And this is the website of the American Numismatic Society.