Antinous, the Emperor's Beloved: Investigating a Roman Portrait

September 1–November 26, 2017 

4th Floor, East Tower 


Antinous, the Emperor's Beloved: Investigating a Roman Portrait is the first exhibition project of its kind for the Museum in its focus on the insights achieved through the close, scientific examination of a single work in the collection. The exhibition centers on the Museum's ancient Roman portrait depicting Antinous, the beautiful youth beloved by the emperor Hadrian. The unexpected discovery in 2011 of traces of gilding on this marble portrait inspired an in-depth examination. The exhibition will share with the Museum's visitors both the methods of our behind-the-scenes research and what we have learned about this complex work of art.

Antinous's remarkable life story culminated in his death by drowning in the Nile in A.D. 130 and his subsequent deification by Hadrian. The Museum's portrait shows Antinous in the guise of Dionysos or Bacchus, the god of wine, recognizable by his wreath of ivy leaves. The exhibition explores the original appearance of the over-life-size statue to which this head belonged, including the scientific analysis of the ancient gilding of the ivy wreath, and reveals the many phases of restoration that have resulted in its current appearance.

The exhibition features works from the Museum's collection as well as loans from the J. Paul Getty Museum, the American Numismatic Society, and the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology.

Head of Antinous as Dionysos, Roman, A.D. 130-138, Marble, h. 15 in. (38.1 cm), San Antonio Museum of Art, gift of Gilbert M. Denman, Jr. Photography by Peggy Tenison.


Antinous, the Emperor's Beloved: Investigating a Roman Portrait has been made possible by generous support from the following donors: the bequest of Gilbert M. Denman, Jr.; in memory of Myriam McGinnis, from her family; Louis J. Lamm, Jr.; the Alice Kleberg Reynolds Foundation; and the Friends of Ancient Art.