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Bust of Emperor Hadrian

Artist: Copy after the Roman Antique now in the Capitoline Museum in Rome.
Year: Mid 19th century.
Medium: Marble
Size: Height - 25 1/2", Length - 24 1/2", Width - 14"
Original Location: Grand Salon.
2012.11.02 EL On loan from the Ackland Art Museum at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill.

This is one of four larger than life size busts that were displayed in the Grand salon. It is not known if these four were Grand Tour purchases or purchase at another time. These types of bust would have been available in cities such as New York and Philadelphia by the mid nineteenth century. In the first half of the nineteenth century there is a renewed interested in classicalism which is seen in decorative arts and architecture.

Hadrian was born in January 24, 76. He reigned as the 14th Emperor of Rome from August 10, 117 till his death at the age of 62 on July 10, 138. The political philosopher Niccolo Machiavelli in 1503 names him as the third of the “Five Good Emperors”. A term still in use today. Hadrian’s reputation was further enhanced by the English historian Edward Gibbon in his mulita-volume work the They History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire written between 1876 and 1789. Gibbon felt that Hadrian was the central figure of the “five good emperors. Gibbon in his opening paragraph, considered Hadrian one of the most remarkable talented man that Rome every produced. Gibbon’s book was a major influence on nineteenth century thought.[1] The book is still in print today. . He is best known as the builder of the Hadrian Wall which marked the norther limit of Britannia. He also rebuilt the Pantheon. He was a builder a military man and a poet.

This bust along with the Bust Antonius Pius was inherited by the Acklen’s son William and went with his estate of the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. Both busts retain their original marble pedestals.

[1] McKay, John P.; Bennett D. Hill, John Buckler, Patricia B. Ebrey and Roger B. Beck. A History of World Societies (7th ed.) Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2007.

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