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San Antonio Museum of Art presents the exhibit „Antinous, the Emperor’s Beloved“

Head of Antinous as Dionysos, Roman, A.D. 130-138, Marble, h. 15 in. (38.1 cm), San Antonio Museum of Art, gift of Gilbert M. Denman, Jr. Photography by Peggy Tenison

The focus is on a scientific analyses of the portrait and of the stories around the young boy and his mighty friend Hadrian

What a story: While traveling with Roman emperor Hadrian in Egypt in AD 130, young Antinous drowned in the Nile River. Legends say that the adolescent committed suicide to donate his lifetime to his older friend. Both were lovers as Hadrian was an addict to ancient Greek culture when elder men often were mentors and more for promising youngsters.

Until November 26, 2017, the San Antonio Museum of Art in Texas presents „Antinous, the Emperor’s Beloved: Investigating a Roman Portrait“, the first exhibition of its kind for the Museum, as it focuses on the close examination of a single work in the collection. This exhibition shares both scientific, behind-the-scenes research and the story of Antinous, the young lover of Roman Emperor Hadrian.

After the loss of his friend, Hadrian went into deep mourning and commemorated Antinous with statues, a city in his name, and ultimately deification. Cities throughout the Empire began to worship Antinous, a practice that continued for more than a hundred years after his death. More statues of Antinous survive than any other historical figure from the Roman world except the emperors Augustus and Hadrian.

Portrait of Antinous, Roman, A.D. 130-138, Marble, h. 9 5/16 in. (23.7 cm); w. 7 5/16 in. (18.6 cm); d. 8 1/16 in. (20.5 cm). San Antonio Museum of Art, bequest of Gilbert M. Denman, Jr. Photography by Peggy Tenison

The exhibition draws on a thorough study of the Museum’s portrait of Antinous to better understand its original appearance. A study revealed that the head’s ivy wreath preserved traces of its ancient gilding. Microscopic imaging revealed that purple stains on the wreath were actually caused by the chemical deterioration of the gilding.

The exhibition features images from the scientific analyses. „The phenomenon has been recorded on only a very few Roman statues,” said Jessica Powers, PhD, Curator of the show, „and its documentation on the Museum’s Antinous marks an important contribution to the understanding of gilding and polychromy on Roman sculptures.”

Other members of the research team were Dr. Michelle Bushey (National Science Foundation, formerly of Trinity University) and Dr. Mark Abbe (University of Georgia).

The exhibition also features several other works, including ancient sculptures and coins on loan from the J. Paul Getty Museum, the American Numismatic Society, and the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology.

The exhibition has been made possible by generous support from the following donors: the bequest of Gilbert M. Denman, Jr.; in memory of Myriam McGinnis, from her family; Louis J. Lamm, Jr.; the Alice Kleberg Reynolds Foundation; and the Friends of Ancient Art.

Drachm of Antinous, Roman (minted in Alexandria), A.D. 134/135, Bronze, max. diam. 1/4 in. (3.3 cm), San Antonio Museum of Art, gift of Gilbert M. Denman, Jr. Photography by Peggy Tenison

By the way: Hadrian’s rule (AD 117-138) was a time of peace with only a few wars. It was he who built the stone wall to protect the Northern frontier of the Roman province Britannica. This year, many events in the UK remember Hadrian’s ascension to the throne.

San Antonio Museum of Art

(05.09.2017, 09.05.2017)