Lot 9
  • 9

A Marble Portrait Bust of Antinous, Roman Imperial, reign of Hadrian, circa A.D. 130-138

2,000,000 - 3,000,000 USD
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  • A Marble Portrait Bust of Antinous
  • Marble
  • Height 33 in. 83.7 cm.
The deified youth turned to his left, his face with deep-set, almond-shaped eyes, straight brow, aquiline nose, and full lips, his luxuriant hair falling in cascading wavy locks, the molded circular base inscribed in Greek: "M. Lucius Flaccus (dedicated this) to the hero/god Antinous."


found at ancient Banias (or Paneas), later Caesarea Philippi (modern-day Baniyas in the Golan Heights)
M. Pérétié, Chancellor of the French Consulate, Beirut, 1879-1882
Louis de Clercq, 1882-1901
Comte Henri de Boisgelin, 1901-1967
Nicholas Koutoulakis, Paris and Geneva
Robin Symes, London
London art market
Albrecht Neuhaus Kunsthandel, Würzburg, 1983
Jean-Luc Chalmin, December 1992


Beaudoin et Pottier, "Collection de M. Péretié. Inscriptions," Bulletin de correspondance hellénique, vol. 3, 1879, p. 259, no. 2
Salomon Reinach, review of L. Dietrichson, Antinoos, Christiana, 1884, in Revue critique d'histoire et de littérature, vol. 19, 1885, p. 366
Wernecke, s.v. Antinoos, in Paulys Real-encylopedia der classischen Altertumswissenschaft, vol. 1, Stuttgart, 1894, col. 2441
André De Ridder, Catalogue de la collection de Clercq, vol. IV: Les marbres, les vases peints et les ivoires, Paris, 1906, p. 39, no. 35, pls. 15-17
P. Marconi, "Antinoo, saggio sull'arte dell' eta adrianea," Monumenti antichi. Reale Accademia dei Lincei, vol. 29, 1923, p. 208
René Mouterde, Inscriptions grecques et latines de la Syrie, 1929, pp. 50-51, no. 1300
Erich Holm, Das Bildnis des Antinous, diss., Leipzig, 1933, p. 26
Christoph W. Clairmont, Die Bildnisse des Antinous: Ein Beitrag zur Porträtplastik unter Kaiser Hadrian, 1966, p. 41
H. v. Heintze, Gnomon, vol. 43, 1971, p. 397
Veronika Krüse-Berdoldt, Kopienkritschen Untersuchungen, Göttingen, 1975, p. 63
Orangerie '83. Deutscher Kunsthandel im Schloss Charlottenburg, September 15th to 29th, 1983, p. 4, illus.
A. Stepken, Art Journal, 1983, fas. 9, p. 4, illus.
Burlington Magazine, September 1983, p. 580, fig. 58
Artis, vol. 35, 1983, p. 54
Die Weltkunst, vol. 53, 1983, p. 2188
Hugo Meyer, Antinoos. Die archäologischen Denkmäler unter Einbeziehung des numismatischen und epigraphischen Materials sowie der literarischen Nachrichten. Ein Beitrag zur Kunst- und Kulturgeschichte der hadrianisch-frühantoninischen Zeit, Munich, 1991, p. 99f., no. I 77, pl. 88
Antike Welt, vol. 29, 1998, p. 496, fig. 21
John Francis Wilson, Caesarea Philippi: Banias, the Lost City of Pan, 2004, p. 41
Caroline Vout, "Antinous, Archaeology and History," The Journal of Roman Studies, vol. 95, 2005
Thomas Maria Weber and Mathaf Dimashq, Sculptures from Roman Syria in the Syrian National Museum at Damascus, 2006, p. 51
Caroline Vout and Penelope Curtis, Antinous: The Face of the Antique, Leeds, 2006, p. 29, fig. 5
Caroline Vout, Power and Eroticism in Imperial Rome, Cambridge, 2007, p. 77, fig. 23
Arachne, nos. 36040 and 56099


Part of bust reattached, missing part of bust as well as nose and proper left side of upper lip formerly restored in marble, the smoothed breaks and pin holes now concealed with plaster-like material, a lock of hair broken off by each ear, minor chips on hair.
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.

Catalogue Note

The present bust is the only known Classical representation of Antinous, outside of his coin portraits, to be identified by an inscription.

Sometime within the decade following the tragic death of Hadrian's favorite Antinous in A.D. 130, a local military figure or magistrate of Syria, Marcus Lucius Flaccus (himself a descendant of one of the most prominent patrician families of Rome, the Gens Valeria) acted as a public benefactor of the city of Banias by acquiring for her a finely carved and polished portrait bust of Antinous. The youth was represented larger than lifesize in the heroic nude, in the guise of the Greek hero or god into which Hadrian had turned him by Imperial decree immediately upon his death in A.D. 130. Flaccus then had a inscription carved on the socle of the bust in which he dedicated the sculpture for public display to the "hero Antinous," thus acknowledging the quasi-divine status of the youth.

The purchase of such an exceptional work of art required wealth, as the bust is of the finest quality and had to be acquired from one of the best Imperially-sponsored workhops in Greece employing the most skilled craftsmen available; it also necessitated clout and power, because not everyone had the ability to associate one's own name with that of the emperor's deified favorite in a public inscription. But most importantly it revealed the desire to augment that power and influence by strengthening ties to the central seat of power in Rome. Being of direct Italian descent Flaccus did not need to use for his inscription the vernacular Greek language spoken in the Eastern provinces of the Roman empire; he could have chosen Latin instead, which was the language often used in Eastern Roman colonies for administrative and official purposes. It is possible that by using Greek he was not only making the text legible to most people, but also paying homage to Hadrian's love of Greek art and culture, for which he was known as the Philhellene emperor.

Banias or Panias had once been the capital of Herod's Kingdom and was re-founded by the Romans as Caesarea Philippi, a thriving city on the Golan Heights; it had a famed sanctuary to the god Pan, built on what was believed to be his cave. Flaccus could have had the bust displayed in a niche within a building dedicated to the Imperial cult, such as the Augusteum, which Herod, a client-king of Rome, had built and consecrated to the worship of the imperial family more than a century earlier; if so, "the bust may have stood in a place of honor in that temple. If not, it must have been located at some place within the growing cult complex near the cave and springs [of Pan] or among the monuments of the growing city centre" (Wilson, op. cit., 2004, p. 41).

Ancient sources do not record an imperial visit made by Hadrian specifically to Banias, only a tour of the Middle East during the months preceding Antinous' untimely death in A.D. 130. Hadrian's recent visit to Syria must have been fresh in the memory of all Roman officials when they heard of his favorite's death and deification only a few months later. There is evidence that Banias possessed a bronze statue of Hadrian dressed in Greek garb and extending a benevolent hand over the kneeling female personification of a subdued province (Wilson, op. cit., 2004, pp. 41-42)

Closely related busts of Antinous are in the National Museum in Athens (from Patras; Meyer, op. cit., 1991, p. 29f., no. I 7, pl. 5), the Louvre (K. de Kersauson, Musée du Louvre. Catalogue des portraits romains, vol. II, Paris, 1996, no. 70), and the Prado (St. F. Schröder, Katalog der antiken Skulpturen des Museo del Prado in Madrid, 1. Die Porträts , 1993, pp. 210-213, no. 56; Meyer, op. cit., 1991, p. 54f., no. I 34, pl. 37, 1.2 ). For a heroic statue of Antinous in the Delphi Museum see D.E.E. Kleiner, Roman Sculpture, New Haven, 1992, fig. 207.