Antinoüs’s voice, meanwhile, is never heard when he is alive. In distinction to Echo, his is an embodied silence figuring in Hadrian’s personal world of mythology. Hadrian is the master and Antinoüs the silent companion: ‘I have been absolute master but once in my life, and over but one being; (…) His presence was extraordinarily silent: he followed me like some animal or some familiar spirit’ (155). Again Hadrian finds it difficult to retrieve a picture of the whole of Antinoüs, but he does manage a profusion of details: ‘But the faces which we try so desperately to recall escape us: it is only for a moment…’ (155). Hadrian asserts that the ‘truth’ of their time together was that Antinoüs embodied the ideal form of beauty; this is another example of Hadrian confronting the problem of fixing an image of his lover, and encountering the problem later evoked by Barthes. It is his memory, which has to rely on recollections of parts of the body, that releases Antinoüs from being a sculpted essence: as the Henry Moore Institute exhibition of 2006 also argued, we see that it is a misreading of sculpture to treat it as essentialist.
Hadrian considers how his interpretation of events controls the access the reader has to the thoughts ascribed to Antinoüs in the text. The discourse concerns master, sculpture and masterpiece: ‘Even my remorse has gradually become a form of possession, though bitter, and a way of assuring myself that, to the end, I have been the sorry master of his destiny. (…) In taking upon myself the entire fault I reduce the young figure to the proportions of a wax statuette which I might have shaped and crushed, in my hands. I have no right to detract from the extraordinary masterpiece which he made of his departure: I must leave to the boy the credit for his own death’ (172-3). As Rémy Poignault has put it, ‘Hadrian no longer casts himself as a sculptor if it will ease his conscience’. Two forms of manipulation occur however: first, Hadrian’s fear of losing his happiness, coupled with his investment in familiarity with the mythical figure he has made of Antinoüs, leads him to protect himself by turning sadistically on Antinoüs; and second, the arrangement in his narrative of the series of hunts, religious rituals and sacrifices functions as an inexorable drive towards the death of Antinoüs.
The first process is veiled in Hadrian’s sculptural metaphor. A passage from ‘Patroclus or destiny’ in Yourcenar’s 1936 text Fires (Feux) also deals with silence and the lover-beloved visualisation: ‘The secret hatred that dwells deep inside love predisposed Achilles to the role of sculptor: he envied Hector for having completed this masterpiece, since he alone should have removed the last veils of thought and gesture remaining between Patroclus and himself, thereby uncovering Patroclus in the sublime nakedness of his death’. Sculpture enables Achilles and Hadrian to fix the form of Patroclus and Antinoüs respectively. It is only possible to see the Other completely after death, therefore in retrospect.