A study of a Roman sculptural cult that emerged during the 2nd century AD by Cambridge lecturer Dr Caroline Vout has won a new award for books on art history.
The book, ‘Antinous: the Face of the Antique', written by Dr Vout, who is a University lecturer in Classics, and edited and published by the Henry Moore Institute, has been named the first recipient of the Art Book Award. The book examines the sculptural tradition that sprang up following the death of Antinous, a lover of the Emperor Hadrian.
Antinous, who was noted for his beauty, drowned mysteriously in the Nile before his 20th birthday, around AD 130. In his grief, and before his own death eight years later, the Emperor Hadrian initiated a cult of Antinous by commissioning busts and statues of his beloved.
Far from stopping with Hadrian, however, the movement spread throughout the Roman Empire. Eventually, Antinous became one of the most popular subjects of Roman sculpture, second only to emperors like Augustus and Hadrian himself.
Dr Vout's book was written to accompany the exhibition of the same name which she curated at the Henry Moore Institute in 2006. This was the Institute's first ancient show and the first exhibition in Britain dedicated to Antinous. It uses the collection of sculptures to examine some of the thorniest issues art historians face when dealing with work of this period, such as how to recognise the individuals portrayed, and how to restore damaged sculptures.
The Art Book Award is made by the editors of The Art Book (a quarterly journal of Art History) and the Associate of Art Historians. The judges praised the winning book for the balance it struck between quality of research, readability, production and design.