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Lot 53c, Auction 10/12/2017: Roman Imperial Silver Votive Plaque

Ancient Rome, Imperial Period, ca. 1st to 4th century CE. An iconographically rich plaque, comprised of silver sheet, hammered in repousse, depicting a sacred being or deity, perhaps of the Bacchanalian persuasion, with a stylized wavy coiffure and full beard, donning a toga-like garment with one hand gesturing toward the left, fingers touching his plaited armband, flanked by a pair of birds holding grape clusters in their beaks. Adding to the iconography are a bull's or ox's head in the lower left corner, a crescent moon in the upper left corner, and a six-pointed star in the upper right corner. The scene is tastefully bordered by a beaded motif. Custom stand. Size: 5.375" W x 3.625" H (13.7 cm x 9.2 cm); 4.25" H (10.8 cm) on stand

Bulls played an important role in Roman religious practice: as sacrifices for the good of the state in the taurobolium, as part of the Mithraic mysteries, and as a symbol of male virility. The crescent moon was a chief attribute of the goddesses Luna and Juno, and interestingly, Luna is oftentimes depicted driving a biga or two-yoke chariot drawn by bulls or oxen. Given the possible iconographic associations of this piece with Luna, it is possible that the star in the upper right corner and the central figure reference the titan Helios, crowned by a sun aureole rather than a head of wavy hair.

Condition: Expected surface wear and discoloration/tarnish, losses and tiny tears to peripheries and nose, all commensurate with age.

Provenance: private New Jersey USA collection, acquired over twenty years ago

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