fragments of the orient


An international collaboration among the Art Institute of Chicago, the Palazzo Altemps Museum in Rome, and the University of Chicago uses new technologies to make an improbable discovery about two statues from the 2nd century AD. 

Antinous was very likely the lover of the Emperor Hadrian; he drowned as a young man and was deified by a grief-stricken Hadrian. The cult of Antinous spread rapidly throughout the empire; you can see why, since it’s quite a romantic story and he’s a good-looking young man.

W. Raymond Johnson, an Egyptologist with the Oriental Institute, noticed years ago that the fragment of Antinous’s head matched the fragmentary head of a bust in the Palazzo Altemps in Rome, and after a decade of investigation, this year, the two parts were united – but not assembled. Instead, a three-dimensional scan of the parts was made, then assembled and 3-D printed, and from that a plaster model was cast.

The reunited fragments and their “complete” model are on display at the Art Institute through September 5th; if you’re in Chicago, now’s the time to go see them. I’m planning to go myself this afternoon (the Art Institute is open late on Thursdays).

Name: Relief of Men Towing a Boat

Material: Stone


Height: 43 cm (1 ft 5 in) 119.5 cm (3 ft 11 in) x 17 cm (6.7 in)

Date: 721-705 BCE

Place of Origin: Khorsabad, Iraq

Location: Oriental Institute Museum, Chicago, Illinois

Archaeologists from the Oriental Institute discovered this relief fragment in the debris of the throne room of King Sargon II. The fragment shows naked Assyrian soldiers towing a boat on a river, possibly during one of Sargon’s military campaigns against Marduk-apla-iddina II, king of Babylon, whose name is inscribed in the text above the scene.