Head of Hadrian, 117-138 AD
430 (height) mm; 16 (weight) kg
London, England


This bronze head, found in the Thames near London Bridge, once stood atop a large statue of the Roman emperor Hadrian (who reigned 117-138 AD). The sculpture had possibly been commissioned to commemorate Hadrian’s visit to Britain in 122 AD, for public display in Roman London, perhaps in a forum or on a bridge over the Thames. Inheriting a vast, but politically unstable Empire, Hadrian prioritized development over further expansion; he defined and protected the empire’s vulnerable borders, for instance he built Hadrian’s Wall.
Imperial imagery on coins and statuary disseminated Hadrian’s visual presence even more widely than his own extensive travels throughout the Empire, both helped to maintain Roman power and unity. While many marble sculptures of Hadrian survive, bronze was easily recycled and this head is a rare survivor. His full beard set a new Roman trend reflecting Hadrian’s admiration for Greek culture and fashion.


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