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CNG Feature Auction 117

Lot nuber 1097

WORLD. Italian workshop. Over-Lifesize Marble Bust of the Roman Emperor Hadrian. Mid-late 19th century.

CNG Feature Auction 117
Lot: 1097.
 Estimated: $ 20 000


Sold For $ 13 000. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

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WORLD. Italian workshop. Over-Lifesize Marble Bust of the Roman Emperor Hadrian. Mid-late 19th century. Head and neck carved of white Carrara marble, and half-length upper torso with general’s cuirass and cloak carved in marmo rosso antico marble. Unsigned. Dimensions: Height 69 cm (35”); 84 cm (width 33”), weight: Approx. 750 pounds. The head and bust are separable. A truly grand and imposing portrait in high imperial style. The portrait and bust patterned on a bust in the British Museum, #1805,0703.95; Cf. C. Evers, Les portraits d'Hadrien: Typologie et ateliers (Brussels 1994), 126-127 no. 59; 319-324 figs. 51-52. Small nick on top of head, minor marks on forehead; on bust, a small area of expert restoration to the front of drapery, a few nicks along the bottom edge, otherwise intact and monumental .

From the Collection of a Connoisseur; ex Property of a Midwestern Private Collector (Skinner Auction 21 July 2014), lot 219.

Hadrian, reigned AD 117-138, was the most well-traveled of all Roman rulers, and is the subject of more surviving portrait busts than any other emperor save Augustus himself. An intellectual of immense curiosity and manifold abilities, Hadrian was perhaps underappreciated in his own time, but the great humanists of the Renaissance found in him a kindred spirit and he is now regarded as one of the greatest Roman emperors. His “philosopher’s beard,” a first for a Roman emperor, and somewhat inscrutable good looks lent themselves well to portraiture in all mediums. Modern scholars have classified his portraits into several distinct types produced at different points in his 21-year reign. With only about 150 surviving busts of Roman vintage, copies closely modeled on the Roman prototypes were produced by talented European sculptors of more recent eras to fill the need for a sculptural centerpiece for the parlors, libraries and gardens of the urbane elite. This bust, dating from the mid to late 1800s, was sculpted by an artist in Italy and is closely patterned on an example found at Hadrian’s Villa in Tivoli and subsequently obtained by the British Museum in 1805. Of a type produced at the peak of Hadrian’s reign, it depicts a mature man with a commanding expression, a carefully trimmed beard, and a thick head of wavy hair with fringe of a dozen curly locks framing his face. He wears the costume of a Roman general: metal cuirass with fringed leather straps known as pteruges protecting the upper arms, the whole engulfed in a heavy paludamentum, or officer’s cloak, pinned at the right shoulder with a large circular floral brooch. The bust depicts the entire upper torso (or “half-length”) and can serve as its own pedestal. The head, of stark white Carrara marble, contrasts beautifully with the deep bust of variegated red and purple marmo rosso antico, an effect widely exploited by Roman sculptors. The head and bust are perhaps 25 percent larger than life-size, befitting such a larger-than-life figure.

The final winners of all CNG Feature Auction 117 lots will be determined during the live online sale that will be held on 19-20 May 2021. This lot is in Session 4, which begins 20 May 2021 at 2 PM ET.

Winning bids are subject to a 20% buyer's fee for bids placed on this website and 22.50% for all others.

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