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Large Roman Marble Frieze w/ Medusa Heads

Roman, Imperial Period, ca. 1st to 3rd century CE. A skillfully carved classical frieze presenting two heads of Medusa or gorgoneion with acanthus leaves and a the fluting of a column/capital between their visages - all in fairly high relief - perhaps intended for a Roman temple or a massive sarcophagus. Renderings of Medusa by the ancients were traditionally used to ward off evil; hence they were ideal for temples as protectors of the gods as well as sarcophagi intended to protect the deceased for all eternity. Although this piece is a fragment - albeit a very large fragment - and has age wear as shown, it is remarkable that it survived the onslaught of the early Christian campaigns that destroyed so many exceptional examples of so-called pagan art! Size: 38" W x 7.5" H (96.5 cm x 19 cm); 10.875" H (27.6 cm) on included custom stand.

How ironic that the sculptor created marble (stone) versions of this mythical Gorgon monster with writhing serpents in her wavy coiffure whose mere gaze could transform onlookers to stone! Throughout the ages, Medusa has been immortalized in countless works of art. Some of you may be familiar with the dramatic interpretations by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, Peter Paul Rubens, Benevenuto Cellini, Gianlorenzo Bernini, Rene Lalique, Antonio Canova, and the list goes on. These artists of the Renaissance, Baroque, and Neoclassical eras were inspired by ancient renderings of Medusa like this example.

Cf: For a discussion of other friezes with Medusa heads read the article, "Two Medusa-Head Friezes", The J. Paul Getty Museum Journal: volume 1, 1974. This article discusses marble fragments with heads of Medusa at the British Museum, the Oslo National Gallery, and the Getty Museum. (https://books.google.com/books?id=Bm4mAgAAQBAJ&pg=PA33&lpg=PA33&dq=marble+medusa+frieze&source=bl&ots=gJ_G0jUp9M&sig=EG_VyPle9IdWdKBnT2ADVS5m66g&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjXjpjHwa_fAhXFoIMKHR-rAr8Q6AEwCXoECAAQAQ#v=onepage&q=marble%20medusa%20frieze&f=false)

Condition: A very large fragment with losses to the two heads, their serpentine hair, and their high-pointed facial features, and losses to the fluted column and acanthus leaves between them as shown. Abrasions to faces, coiffures, and other high pointed areas. Still remarkable to find a section of this size and clarity in the carving.

Provenance: private East Coast, USA collection; ex-Collection Of William Froelich, New York, California, & the Caribbean from the mid 1960s to the late 1970s, acquired from a dealer in France

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