Hadrian's VillaLuxurious imperial villa from the first century CE Tivoli / Lazio / Italy
Works of Art and Building MaterialsThe young Furietti Centaur
Hadrian's Villa was, as an imperial palace, designed to have no equal and no superior, and the villa was adorned with the very best of what the Roman empire had to offer in terms of works of art and buildings materials. It is very probably that Hadrian himself took active part in the selection of works of art for the villa.
Almost everything of value has been removed from the villa since late antiquity, but many objects that are known to come from the Villa Hadriana are now dispersed in museums and collections throughout Europe. It is probable that even more have either been lost completely or is now listed without known provenance. Enough survive to illustrate the incredible lavishness of the decoration of the Villa.
Over 500 statues are definitely from the villa, and that can only be a part of the statuary of the ancient villa. Some of the more famous statues are in the Capitoline Museums (Harpocrates, Furietti Centaurs and Faun in Red Marble) and in the Vatican Museums. Most statues have been removed from the villa, especially in the 17th and 18th centuries, and many more have probably ended in the merciless limekilns in the middle ages.
The works of art that have survived show each building have had a specific significance that was reflected in the selection of the statues and other decorations of the building.
Between the buildings and around the villa were a series of open spaces, gardens and parks adorned with statues, nymphaeums and fountains.
Pavements in opus sectile were found in many parts of the villa. The designs were most geometric patterns made of squares, triangles and lozenges in polychrome and often rare and precious kinds of marble, sometimes mixed with coloured glass and ivory. Opus sectile was a very costly technique and was only used in the most prestigious parts of the villa.Mosaic with Drinking Doves
Mosaics were used throughout the complex, mostly in less prestigious areas, such as the dorms for lower ranking guests to the villa, but some important rooms were also decorated with special mosaics. The most famous mosaics from Hadrian's Villa are two emblemata in the Hellenistic style, the "Mosaic with Drinking Doves" and the "Mosaic with Theatrical Masks", both now in the Capitoline Museums. Both emblems are made with a technique known as opus vermiculatum, using minute tesserae. Pliny the Younger wrote about a famous Greek floor mosaic with an emblem with drinking doves in the middle of a so-called "unswept floor". The mosaic from Hadrian's Villa could be the original Greek work or it could be a copy. Emblemata are easily removed due to their size.
Most of the mosaics still in situ at the Villa Hadriana are either black and white mosaics in the Italian style, geometric and/or with floral designs, or polychrome geometric designs. Often they are not of good quality. Very beautiful and well preserved black and white mosaics are found in the Hospitalia, but most of the remaining mosaics are just fragments, usually found at the edges near the walls. Many are found in the Residential Villa and in the Golden Court.
The walls in many of the central buildings have been decorated with polychrome marble veneer, but almost nothing has survived. Other environments had the walls covered with layers of plaster, sometimes painted with frescoes with geometric or naturalistic motifs, sometimes decorated with elaborate floral patterns in stucco-work.
Unfortunately, the wall paintings of the Villa Hadriana are generally badly preserved. Fragments of some geometric designs are found in the cryptoporticus under the Buildings with Peristyle Pool, covered with graffiti and tags, some centuries old, some very recent. Other wall paintings are found in the rooms in front of the Praetorian Pavilion.
Ceilings were often decorated with plaster, painted or with designs in stucco-work. Little has survived as the ceilings of most buildings are collapsed, but there are noteworthy pieces in the Large Baths and to a lesser degree in the so-called Imperial Triclinium.Next: The Villa after Hadrian
This article has been split into 7 separate sections. Use the menu below to jump to another section.
- The Meaning of the Individual Buildings
- The Building Process
- Works of Art and Building Materials
- The Villa after Hadrian
- Literature and Links
- Access Road
- Barracks of the Guard
- Building with Doric Columns
- Building with Peristyle Pool and Cryptoporticus
- Building with Three Exedrae
- Court of the Libraries
- Cryptoporticus near the Large Baths
- Decorative Techniques in Hadrian's Villa - Stucco, Mosaics and Opus Sectile
- Golden Court
- Greek Library
- Greek Theatre
- Hall of the Philosophers
- Heliocaminus Baths
- Imperial Triclinium
- Large Baths
- Latin Library
- Maritime Theatre
- Nympheum - Stadion
- Pavilion of Tempe
- Praetorian Pavilion
- Residential Villa
- Servant Accomodation
- Small Baths
- Temple of Serapis
- Temple of Venus
- Terrace of Tempe
- Antinous - Protege of Emperor Hadrian (c. 110 CE - 130 CE) (Romans, Historical Persons)
- Antoninus Pius - Roman Emperor (138-161 CE) (Romans, Historical Persons)
- Apollodorus of Damascus - Roman Architect (1st/2nd century CE) (Romans, Historical Persons)
- Augustus - Roman Emperor (27 BCE-14 CE) (Romans, Historical Persons)
- Capitoline Museums (Campidoglio, Rome, Italy)
- Cicero (Romans, Historical Persons)
- Constantine I - Roman Emperor (306-337 CE) (Romans, Historical Persons)
- Diocletian - Roman Emperor (284-305 CE) (Romans, Historical Persons)
- Faun in Red Marble (Palazzo Nuovo, Capitoline Museums, Campidoglio, Rome, Italy)
- Furietti Centaurs - Two marble statues from the Villa Hadriana (Palazzo Nuovo, Capitoline Museums, Campidoglio, Rome, Italy)
- Hadrian - Roman Emperor (117-138 CE) (Romans, Historical Persons)
- Harpocrates - Horus the Child (Palazzo Nuovo, Capitoline Museums, Campidoglio, Rome, Italy)
- Marcus Aurelius - Roman Emperor (Romans, Historical Persons)
- Mosaic with Drinking Doves (Palazzo Nuovo, Capitoline Museums, Campidoglio, Rome, Italy)
- Mosaic with Theatrical Masks (Palazzo Nuovo, Capitoline Museums, Campidoglio, Rome, Italy)
- Rome - The Eternal City (Italy)
- Sabina - Roman Empress (117-136 CE) and Wife of Hadrian (Romans, Historical Persons)
- Septimius Severus - Roman Emperor (193-211 CE) (Romans, Historical Persons)
- Trajan - Roman Emperor (98-117 CE) (Romans, Historical Persons)
- Vatican Museums (Vatican City State)
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