This is a roman marble statue of Antinous, a youth of renowned beauty from Bithynia in northwest Asia Minor (Turkey). He was the favourite lover of the Emperor Hadrian (born AD 76, died AD 138), accompanying him on tours of his Empire. He is portrayed here in the style of Greek sculpture of the early Classical period (about 450 BC). The features are ennobled and the upward turn of the head suggests a feeling of exaltation. It is likely that Antinous is represented here offering ambrosia to Hadrian.
Hadrian visited Egypt in AD 130, along with both his wife and Antinous, and embarked on a voyage up the River Nile. On 24 October Antinous drowned in the river. It lead to a public outpouring of grief on the part of Hadrian. The extent of their love for one another was indicated by reports that Hadrian wept for him like a woman’. It is thought that Antinous might have sacrificed himself to the Gods in order to ensure Hadrian’s prosperity. Antinous became something of a celebrity after his death. He was deified (worshipped as a God) and a new city named Antinopolis was founded near the site of his death. Hadrian erected statues, such as this one, which embodied an ideal form of youthful beauty, throughout his Empire.
The statue was purchased by Leverhulme at the sale of Thomas Hope’s collection. It was restored in the late 18th century by the Roman sculptor Pierantoni, whose additions include the cup and jug held by Antinous. The Hope brothers bought it from the Pierantoni in 1796. It was the second most expensive statue sold at the Hope auction of 1917.