There is actually a very striking coincidence between this particular view and what I take to be the most recent view of the Ildefonso Group: a recent number of Art History in effect discusses the Ildefonso relief essentially in terms of Hadrian’s awareness of earlier Greek models. The Ildefonso Group becomes, in other words, a kind of composite of bits taken from this or that Greek model: this or that figure, this or that particular sculpture, and the question whether it’s Castor and Pollux or whatever particular characters may be embodied in it, dissolves entirely. It seems to me to be extraordinarily interesting that Symonds had already in a sense reached that point. Having first placed so much emphasis on the Ildefonso Group, as being what would incarnate the mystery and perhaps allow the solution of the mystery, he has in effect, concluded in ‘A problem in Greek ethics’ that that Hadrian’s love ‘hangs together’ with his interest in previous Greek art, his mimetism of previous Greek conquerors. This, as it were, offers the final solution.
One might say that we’ve lost almost everything of Winckelmann and subsequent German scholarship in this image of a philhellenic and eclectic emperor, and we’ve also lost any sense of the issues that had plagued Symonds at least up to the point where he wrote his ‘Problem in Greek ethics’. But, of course, we remain free to revisit the stages of his reception of the Antinous type, and we are all the more rewarding for doing that when we see the rich assortment of works which are presented in the present exhibition.