This medallion was made by the Scottish gem engraver and modeller, James Tassie. It features an image of the Roman Emperor Hadrian (born AD 76, died AD 138). From AD 117 to his death, Hadrian ruled an empire that stretched from Scotland to the Sahara.
There is a similar medallion, also by James Tassie, of Hadrian’s male lover Antinous in our collections. Hadrian became enamoured with the beautiful youth, Antinous, during a tour of his Empire, inviting the young man to accompanying him on his travels. Homosexual relationships were not considered unusual in ancient Rome. However, the intensity with which Hadrian mourned Antinous’ death was unprecedented, indicating the strength of their attachment.
James Tassie (born 1735, died 1799) was a Scottish gem engraver and modeller. His best known original works were portrait medallions (round or oval tablets bearing figures), of well-known people. He invented a new medium, vitreous glass paste, with a physician, Henry Quin. His portrait medallions were modelled in wax and then cast in the white paste. The paste was also used to reproductions of antique gems and cameos. Collectors all over the world sought his products. Catherine the Great was among his patrons.