Over-life-sized marble portrait, probably of the empress Sabina


On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 162

This imposing head probably comes from a statue of Sabina, wife of the emperor Hadrian. The face was originally surmounted by a very high, ovoid hairpiece covered with small curls, a style that was fashionable at the court of Trajan in about A.D. 100.
The upper part of the hairpiece was carved separately and added onto the shelf-like area above the forehead. In back, the hair is arranged like that of a classical statue of Venus, goddess of love, with long locks falling forward over the shoulders. Sabina, grandniece of the emperor Trajan, was married to Hadrian, his ward and protégé, in A.D. 100. It is unlikely that an over-life-sized statue of the girl would be commissioned in the years before A.D. 117 when Hadrian became emperor, but it must have been carved fairly soon after, given the high hairpiece that was already out of style. As was quite common, the statue probably represented the young empress as Venus, combining contemporary elements with the traditional iconography of a goddess.

Over-life-sized marble portrait, probably of the empress Sabina, Marble, Roman

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