Imperial Period
about A.D. 130

Catalogue Raisonné

Sculpture in Stone (MFA), no. 356A; Sculpture in Stone and Bronze (MFA), p. 115 (additional published references).


Height (max.) x length of face: 50 cm x 30 cm (19 11/16 x 11 13/16 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Marble from the Greek island of Thasos

Not On View


The Ancient World



The head and neck, over life-sized, were carved to be let into a bust or statue, probably one representing the emperor draped as a Greek magistrate. In proportions of features and details of hairstyle, this portrait closely resembles portraits of Hadrian made in the city of Rome, and it could have been based on a plaster cast of a head of Hadrian shipped from Rome to Egypt. The technique of carving, however, is dry and linear, and little effort was expended on creating a realistic illusion of the texture of hair. Though this portrait from Egypt is a good likeness of Hadrian, it seems relatively schematic, and its expression is harsh compared with images from Rome itself.
The condition, other than some cleaning of the surface patina, is excellent.

Scientific Analysis:
Harvard Lab No. HI227: Isotope ratios - delta13C +3.66 / delta18O -2.64,
MFA laboratory: email from Richard Newman to John Herrmann: “The marble is dolomite (determined by Raman spectroscopy). Some gypsum was also detected (from a fill pr surface alteration?).”

Attribution - Thasos 3 (Cape Vathy), Justification - Medium grained marble, dolomite.


By date unknown: said to have been found at Athribis (Benha) near the head of the Nile Delta; by 1937: from the art market in Cairo; by date unknown: with Michel A. Abemayor; April 7, 1975: purchased by MFA from Michel A. Abemayor

Credit Line

Frank B. Bemis Fund