Sunday, January 13, 2008

Colossal statue of Hadrian found at Sagalassos, Turkey to be highlight of new British Museum exhibition

Two thousand years after he built a wall across Britain to keep out the barbarians, Hadrian is returning to this part of his empire. More than 200 treasures relating to the Roman Emperor will go on display in a block-buster exhibition this summer, the British Museum announced yesterday.

Spectacular artefacts that have only just been found will be among loans from 31 countries - a reflection of the global scale of Hadrian’s empire. It extended from Scotland to the Sahara, and from the Nile to the Danube.

Negotiations are now under way to bring to London a colossal marble statue of Hadrian that was found only a few months ago at Sagalassos, Turkey.

Archaeologists were excavating the site of a huge Roman bath complex, whose construction began under Hadrian, when they found the lower part of a leg and a foot with an exquisitely decorated sandal. The foot alone is about 0.8 metres (2.6ft) long. The complete statue, topped by an imposing head, was originally nearly five metres high. Traces of red paint have survived on both the hair and sandal...

The exhibits will include a sculpture of Hadrian’s wife, created with a beauty that, according to Thorsten Opper of the British Museum, “would have had Michelangelo in raptures, if he had seen it”.

There will also be exquisite bronzes, including an extraordinary statue found in Israel in the 1970s and a silver bowl bearing an intricate portrait of his young Greek lover, Antinous, who accompanied him on his travels around the empire.

A papyrus fragment will give an insight into the man himself as the only surviving section of Hadrian’s autobiography. Its contents are particularly touching in that Hadrian described the loss of his father at the age of 9.

The show also includes objects from the museum’s own collection such as the famous Vindolanda wooden tablets, the oldest surviving examples of handwriting in Britain, which were discovered near Hadrian’s Wall.

Before the exhibition, a bronze head of the emperor from the 2nd century AD will travel to both ends of the wall, which extends 80 miles from the Solway Firth to the Tyne at Wallsend. The head, one of the rare remaining bronzes from Roman times, has never left the museum since its discovery in the Thames in 1834."

This sounds like a fantastic exhibit. If the blood clot in my leg dissolves in time, maybe I can pop over to London and have a look!

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