A portrait of Antinous – in two parts



The Art Institute of Chicago: A Portrait of Antinous, In Two Parts

An exceptionally beautiful Greek youth, Antinous was a favorite of Roman Emperor Hadrian. Following the young man’s mysterious death by drowning in the Nile River, Antinous was proclaimed a god, and portraits of him appeared across the Roman Empire.


This focused exhibition unites two marbles portraying Antinous—which recent discoveries reveal were originally one. After years of careful study, an international collaboration among the Art Institute of Chicago, the Palazzo Altemps Museum in Rome, and the University of Chicago determined that the Art Institute’s fragment of a portrait of Antinous was originally the face of the Altemps’s bust. (That bust received a replacement face by the mid-18th century.)

The centerpiece of the exhibition is a reconstruction of the original statue combining the two parts, showing how the statue would have appeared in antiquity. Laser scanning and three-dimensional printing were used to produce a mold from which the plaster replica was created. This very 21st-century plaster cast, together with both ancient works—the Art Institute’s face and the Altemps’s bust—and additional information present new and intriguing stories about these sculptures and the fascinating subject they depict.


Fascinating documentary, and worth 7 ½ minutes of your time to watch.

I do have a problem with an inaccuracy:

Katharine Raff  said, “Hadrian decides to make Antinous a god, so he deifies him. He completely bypasses the Senate; normally they would need to approve this. He mandates religious rites for Antinous.” The word “mandate” makes it sound like Hadrian issued a decree, bypassing the Roman Senate, that Antinous be worshipped as part of the Imperial Cult. What actually happened is that Antinous was regarded in Egypt as an avatar of Osiris because of the manner and place of his death, and Hadrian did not discourage those individuals and towns (such as Antinous’ birthplace of

Claudiopolis in Bithynia) who wished to honor Antinous with hero cultus or divine honors. It’s a subtle point, but you’d think the Art Institute of Chicago would strive to get the history right – as did the British Museum in their 2008 exhibit

Hadrian: Empire and Conflict.


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