I would like to begin on a personal note. Over the years, and particularly over the past five or six years, I’ve got into the habit, whenever I visit Rome, which luckily turns out to be fairly frequent, of visiting two museums of antique sculpture that are very different in character, and in each case noting a particular sculpture of Antinous. The first one is that extraordinary monolithic modern palazzo, the Palazzo Massimo Alle Terme, built by a Jesuit, last in the line of the princes Massimo, and effective as a Jesuit college until 1960.
One goes into a little corner which is a kind of asylum to see the image which greeted you when you came in, the image of the monolith of Antinous which is simple and rustic, unpretentious – he is represented as a farmer, Sylvanus, preparing to cut bunches of grapes with a bill hook. Now I’m taking this Antinous as being in complete opposition to the other one I will mention, so I’ll say something which I would not want to justify before the historians in the audience. Everything about this relief seems reassuringly unique as a kind of vestige of presence, including the kind of corroborative evidence that supposedly dates it as appearing not long after the death of the historical Antinous which we all know now was around 138 AD. In fact, the corroborative evidence I speak of relates to the finding near Anzio, in the Ager of Lanuvio, of a so-called ‘Collegium salutare’ for the cult of Diana and Antinous which is, I believe, the only one. Again, I stand to be corrected, but I understand it’s the only one in the Western world, as opposed to the Oriental world, and this connection between the Collegium, the relief and the Ager of Lanuvio, which is believed to have been laid out by Hadrian, makes one believe that this might be as conceivably close to the historical Antinous as we could get. Few other similar versions of the rustic Antinous exist, though there is a fine example of him as Aristaeus – the legendary beekeeper – that belonged to Cardinal de Richelieu. It was originally placed in his garden in the Loire Valley and is now in the Louvre.
At the very other end of the scale, I often go – and I clearly share this habit with Caroline Vout – to the Palazzo Altemps, near the Piazza Navona, and the Palazzo Altemps (named this time not after a Jesuit but a Cardinal from northernmost Italy) now contains the extraordinary Ludovisi collection. The wonderful thing about that museum and what differentiates it from any other museum of antiquities that I know is that it is essentially about classical sculpture that has been rehabilitated and given new meaning by the sculptors of the Baroque period. The remarkable example that I always home in on is Alessandro Algardi’s so-called ‘Torch Bearer’, where, from a simple figure of a satyr with merely a torso, he’s produced this extraordinary sculpture with a hand outstretched and a torch, and a wonderful head of hair. The splendid thing about it is that there’s no attempt to disguise that particular transition; there’s a different kind of marble, it’s done with panache instead of subterfuge. It’s within this collection that one also sees, at the centre of a lower room in the same palace, the wonderful Antinous, that is here in the exhibition – actually next door to the bust from Patras which is, to put no finer point upon it, a face transplant. We now know how to do face transplants; and this is indeed a face transplant, but again one which works with such immense panache that one accepts it, whatever period one attributes the face to (I believe it may well be after Winckelmann, it may well be eighteenth century). Certainly, this ranks as an Antinous, but one which pays attention to, and records, the reception of Antinous. It is, as it were, a demonstration of the reception of Antinous. And like all the Ludovisi works which are in the Palazzo Altemps, you have this delightful little diagram beside it, which shows just what is an addition to the original antique part.