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Trio of Roman Bronze Harpies - Vessel or Table Legs

Roman, Imperial Period, ca. 1st to 3rd century CE. A near-identical trio of legs, made from bronze with a high level of lead in its alloy, so that they are heavy and solid. Each stands on a large, single, clawed foot atop an integrated thin platform, and wears a skirt that appears to be made of large leaves. Above the waist, they are nude, with broad stomachs and high, pointed breasts before their arms morph into large, outstretched wings. Each harpy's face is simian, with short hair and stippled motifs on the hair and on the wings. The back of each is undecorated, and weighted with lead, with a large hollow opening where the piece could be fit into something. These may have served as supports for a table, a chest, or possibly as drink holders. Size: 3.45" W x 3.45" H (8.8 cm x 8.8 cm); 4" H (10.2 cm) on included custom stand.

The harpy was originally a personification of the wind, but slowly transformed into fierce half-women, half-birds who were listed among the guardians of the underworld. Wealthy Roman homes had limited furniture, and frescoes and reliefs showing dining scenes suggest that single leg table supports were also used for holding drinks. They were also used as stands for cult images in shrines and sanctuaries.

Condition: All three are intact, with pretty turquoise patina. Heavy encrustation on the backs of each.

Provenance: private Southern California, USA collection, acquired in the 1970s to mid-1980s

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