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Cast of a bust of Antinous as Bacchus, plaster

Museum number: M827

Curatorial note

This bust is a cast of the celebrated marble 'Lansdowne' Antinous excavated at the pantanello or 'Little Swamp' at Hadrian's Villa, Tivoli, near Rome, by Gavin Hamilton, who had the swamp drained in 1769. Hamilton recorded that the excavation was filthy work - labouring 'underground by lamp-light ... my men [were] obliged to work past the knees in stinking mud, full of toads & serpents and all kinds of vermin'.

The original marble dates from 120-140AD. Hamilton sold it to William Petty-Fitzmaurice, 1st Marquess of Lansdowne (1737-1805). It was sold with the majority of the Lansdowne Collection in 1930 and is now in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge. Since its discovery the marble has been known as 'Antinous' after the Emperor Hadrian's favourite, who mysteriously drowned in the River Nile in Egypt in 130AD. However, the ivy wreath, headband and hairstyle identify the subject as Bacchus. The sculpture does not have Antinous' distinctive hairstyle but does have his facial features. Because the fame of Antinous guaranteed a higher price for the excavated bust, Gavin Hamilton's restorer used Antinous as a model, replicating his famous full-lips, nose and chin.

Provenance help-art-provenance

Unknown but it seems to have been in Soane's collection by May 1810 when it appears to be the bust shown in a section throiugh the Dome Area by George Bailey, displayed high up in the dome itself (SM 14/6/3).


If you have any further information about this object, please contact us: worksofart@soane.org.uk