Marble portrait head of Antinoos


On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 162

Antinoos, the young beloved of the Roman emperor Hadrian, drowned in the River Nile during an imperial visit to Egypt in A.D. 130. In accordance with Egyptian custom, the distraught emperor initiated a cult venerating the dead youth, for the Egyptians believed that those who met such a death became assimilated to Osiris, god of the Underworld. Outside Egypt, numerous statues of Antinoos were erected that represented him as a beautiful youth, often in the guise of Dionysos, a Greek god closely related to Osiris. This head is a good example of the sophisticated portrait type created by imperial sculptors to incorporate what must have been actual features of the boy in an idealized image that conveys a god-like beauty. The ovoid face with a straight brow, almond-shaped eyes, smooth cheeks, and fleshy lips is surrounded by abundant tousled curls. The ivy wreath encircling his head associates him with Dionysos, a guarantor of renewal and good fortune.

Marble portrait head of Antinoos, Marble, Roman

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