Thursday, July 3, 2014

Hadrian, now emigré from the land of Tabasco Sauce

Once the New Iberia bank made aware that the statue ought not to stand  outdoors (though of course it had been exposed to English rain and snow for a century or so), they modified their own front to attach an octagonal pavilion, appropriately honored by a ficus tree (1981) and allowing him to be seen all round.
No longer the only full-length statue of Hadrian in the USA
The best local notice of its sale is on line.

The bank's personnel were proud of Hadrian, chosen as a Good Emperor and so appropriate to their bank.  New Iberia, with only 20-odd thousand inhabitants but the home of one of Louisiana's best known products, Tabasco Sauce, chose the statue for that reason, when it was for sale in New Orleans. When a professor in ancient art brought over a class of about a dozen students from LSU, only about an hour's drive from New Iberia, with the assurance that they would not touch the marble, they were happy to let them into the pavilion with him (also, careful not to tip over the ficus tree in its tub).  It was wonderful for the students (senior undergraduates) who finally understood what restorations look like and appreciate what we mean by heroic scale (about 18% over life size).  They would write a paper on their observations.

To photograph the statue frontal and full length meant through glass and with a combination of the interior and reflections from the street.  By the time that the portrait head indicates, though a man who valued a fine figure, we have here no more his own body than any other emperor's portrait in this type would use.  It is the emperor as Jupiter, just as for Sabina we find the Type of one of the matron goddesses.  I happen not to have a coin for Hadrian as Jupiter, but the point is well made by Vespasian, who certainly never pretended to be glamorous.  Jupiter Custos also happens to be 100% nude:

 26 11 03 AR denarius Max D 19mm  2.52g  axis 6:00.  Rome, AD 75-79.  Vespasian, laureate, head to r.  From 5:00 counterclockwise, IMP CAESAR  |  VESPASIANUS AVG.  Rev.  Jupiter Custos, nude, stg. head facing l, with scepter in his l. and making offering over burning altar with his r. hand.  IOVIS  |  CVSTOS (a footnote says that Iovis is the old nominative form).  RIC II, p. 28, no. 124 b (legend to l.).  The other Iovis Custos are of Titus.  This coin is too light and does not look or feel like silver, but it certainly looks ancient.  Mattingly & Sydenham say that the hybrids are often plated, and this is not a hybrid, since (?) neither die is dated, but it certainly seems to be plated, and for this date it is far underweight.
In any case, half-draped but probably resting on his scepter and pouring a libation from a patera.  The almost "wet" silky drapery is quite Hadrianic, being in a Hellenistic manner (and, in my opinion, the nicest part of the statue).  The woollen cloth, no matter how fine, from which an himation (for this is no kind of a toga but drapery derived from Greek half-draped statues) was made would never hang and cling in this way.  It is not meant as (so to speak) whole cloth.

 It is hard to make out to what extent the hand is restored; certainly the fingers are mended.

In 1968 (the slide masks are dated) a local chapter of the Archaeological Institute of America first had a lovely time with a project and, I'm sure, with a real banquet, and dressed themselves in well researched Greek and Roman garments.  Everyone bought the set of slides at the annual meeting, for teaching as well as for a good cause.  I think the credit goes to North Carolina.  Luckily I scanned the slides before they could fade too badly.  This man is wearing the shorter Republican toga, but I chose it for its colors and because it approximates the pose of Hadrian.  ROMAN MEN DID NOT GO WITHOUT A TUNIC!

The 3/4 side view was taken to show that this is a really good statue: its contrapposto works all round and the body believably continues within the drapery.  The divine torso, also, has well understood classical musculature, and it is just heavy enough for a mature deity or emperor.  By the time we get to Canova, of course, George Washington and even Napaoleon looked ridiculous when sculptors were called upon to deify national heroes in these terms.

The drapery that falls from over his left forearm is suddenly very extravagantly Hellenistic.  I have always wondered whether Hadrian ordered, or relished, or knew about this burst of exuberance (for I would not think that any emperor personally inspected any one of the numerous standard-type portraits set up for him, though Hadrian surely would have ordered and relished the Furietti centaurs and other sculptures at Tivoli).  I am not a specialist in Roman portraits, and obtaining good photos of more than the mug shots is not easy.  I used to wish I were European and could just take the train and go to all the museums when I needed to.  I wish our cast collections in America also didn't have just the same things over and over.  I wish Google Images, for that matter, would not fall into the provincial rut.

It was probably Cornelius Vermeule or Dietrich von Bothmer who provided the dating, AD 127, for this portrait of Hadrian, and I shall try to find the answer.  It has a type of archaizing curls, somewhat modified, and facial proportions that themselves suggest such a dating (and certainly make laughable what the person who composed the "sculpted from life in 127 A.D."—Roman emperors and their families had model types, like the portraits of the Queen of England on her postage stamps, done more or less from life, as needed.  The portraits on Imperial coins likewise.  Hadrian probably chose those archaizing curls on his brow, but it wasn't how his hair grew, surely.

I have put off posting the New Iberia installation of Hadrian, because I wanted to verify that it went to Japan, because I wanted to check what kind of marble it is (it looks Italian, but exposure to weather made it hard to be sure), because I thought I ought to find something like a proper publication of it (or even the sale catalogue).
If anyone reading this knows, please tell us.  As it is, I'll post what I have.
Finally, I am so sorry not to have gotten back to New Iberia again, while I could find him there.
Sold at Christie's, NYC, in 2008, for more than $900,000.  The restorations (old in their own right, so part of 18c art history) were not altered.  

P.S. Seen in ForumAncientCoins:  this cameo shows the statuary type that the ex-New Iberia Hadrian used.

1 comment:

  1. The article revealed some interesting historical facts. The portrait of Hadrian looks great! I like the shape of the whole thing. Keep up the great work and share the pictures.