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Roman Marble Head of Serapis, ex-Charles Ede

Roman, Imperial Period, ca. 2nd to 3rd century CE. A skillfully-carved pavonazzetto marble head depicting the god Serapis with deep-set eyes, a bushy beard, a closed mouth with accompanying moustache, wavy locks of cascading curly hair framing his visage, and a tall modius (kalathos) set on top. Pavonazzetto marble, a type of carrara marble, is well-known and widely-used throughout the ancient world, with this head exhibiting a gray, almost purple coloration for its veining. Ancient Romans did not typically respect the deities and belief systems of other ancient cultures; however, those in the Greek and Egyptian pantheons were revered. The god Serapis was originally created by Ptolemy I of Egypt as a means of unifying the Grecian and Egyptian cultures around the 3rd century BCE, though Romans were quick to adopt the cult of Serapis in favor of other overarching deities. Custom museum-quality display stand included. Size: 2.5" W x 4" H (6.4 cm x 10.2 cm); 6.125" H (15.6 cm) on included custom stand.

From the late Hellenistic through to the Roman period, the cult of Serapis increased in importance, and his image was disseminated throughout the ancient world of the Mediterranean. This example is a miniature adaptation of the Serapis of Bryaxis, created by the Greek sculpture in the 4th or 3rd century BCE for the Serapeum at Alexandria. This prototype inspired centuries of art, in which the god was represented seated, a sceptre in his left hand, his right hand resting on a figure of Cerberus, and wearing a chiton and himation, with a modius (a type of grain measure) on his head.

A similar example hammered for $8,400 at Sotheby's, New York, Antiquities Auction (December 7, 2005, lot 53): http://www.sothebys.com/en/auctions/ecatalogue/2005/antiquities-n08137/lot.53.html

Condition: Head was once part of a larger figure. Surface wear and abrasions commensurate with age as shown, losses to areas of nose and modius, small chips to hair, neck line, beard, and face, minor discoloration, and fading to some facial features, otherwise excellent. Nice earthen deposits throughout.

Provenance: private East Coast, USA collection; ex-Charles Ede, London, England, United Kingdom; ex-private London, England, United Kingdom collection, acquired from Spink & Son in September, 1967, thence by descent

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