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Hadrian: An Emperor Cast in Bronze

December 22, 2015-June 27, 2016

Location: Temporary Exhibition Gallery, Samuel and Saidye Bronfman, Archaeology Wing

Curator: David Mevorah and Rachel Caine Kreinin, the Israel Museum, Thorsten Opper, the British Museum

Three extant bronze portraits of the Emperor Hadrian (117 – 138 CE) are brought together for a first-time display in the Israel museum, marking a symbolic return of the Emperor to Jerusalem, whose last visit to the city was in 130 CE. One from the British Museum, found in 1834 in London in the river Thames; the other, from the collection of the Louvre Museum, thought to have originated in Egypt or Asia Minor, The third, found in the camp of the Sixth Roman Legion in Tel Shalem near Beit Shean, which is on display at the Israel Museum's permanent exhibition.

Seemingly alike, though each with its own unique set of characteristics, the portraits highlight the multifaceted and contradictory aspects of Hadrian’s character. With his abundant energy, keen intellect, and wide-ranging interests, Hadrian is considered one of the Roman Empire’s more enlightened rulers. However, his ruthless suppression of the Bar Kokhba revolt and the subsequent destruction of Judaea make him a much-loathed figure in Jewish history.

Lenders: The British Museum, London; The Louvre Museum, Paris; The Israel Antiquities Authority, Studium Biblicum Franciscanum Museum, Jerusalem

Bronze head of Hadrian, Tel Shalem, Beth Shean Valley, 117-138 CE
Israel Antiquities Authority
Photo © The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, by John Williams and Saul Peckham