Oscillum depicting a Dancing Maenad Roman, circa first century AD
Width: 27.5 cm
Price: £125,000 plus any applicable taxes
In the first century, the most fashion-forward of Rome’s elite were incorporating finely- carved decorative marble disks into the extravagant sculptural programmes of their lavish villa gardens. These disks were suspended from the architraves or ceilings of colonnaded porticoes, where they would swing or turn in the wind, hence lending itself eventually to the English term ‘oscillate’, ‘to swing back and forth’.
Carved in fine low relief, this example depicts a dancing maenad, one of the female followers of the ancient Greek wine-god Dionysos. She is holding a tympanon (tambourine) in her left hand, and the folds of her diaphanous garment billow out behind her. During the sacred rites of the god, maenads would become frenzied through tumultuous music, dancing, and drinking, to the point where they were said to be possessed by the god himself. The presence of the dancing maenad was an homage to music, dancing, and the general merriment associated with wine, a sign that the home in which it hung was a place where such behaviour was celebrated. The reverse of the oscillum is carved with the face of a fearsome gorgon, intended to avert evil and offer protection to the owner.
Provenance: Private Collection, early twentieth century, based on original variegated green marble socle.
Private Collection, Estrablin, France, sold Sadde, Dijon, March 12th, 2018, no. 19. French art market. Sotheby’s, London, 4 December 2018, lot 49.
Condition: Light cleaning to remove grimy surface coating. Old repair to chin area of Medusa head on reverse.
Oinochoe, Etruscan, Mid-fifth century BC
Height: 32 cm
Price: £45,000 plus any applicable taxes
The Etruscans were renowned in antiquity and continue to be admired through to the present day for their mas- terful metalwork. Aesthetic achievement and ingenuity were paramount and they consistently drew inspiration from their neighbours while providing their own unique interpretive twist on everything from humble tableware to monumental sculpture.
This elegant profile of the fifth century bronze beaked flagon is one such example of Etruscan metal-smithing innovation. The flagon, or oinochoe, is a single-handled ewer that was used relatively universally in the Greco-Ro- man world for pouring wine.
The present example is especially handsome, with its high broad shoulders and elongated body that tapers gracefully toward the disk base. The arms terminate in animal heads, while the edges are meticulously incised with ribbing and ovolo. The base of the arching handle uniquely features a shield-shaped terminus surmounted by a human mask with a fringe of hair and long curving plaits that top the handle plate. It is embellished with cold worked scrolling and it ends below in pointed palmette petals.
This uniquely Etruscan wine vessel form likely originated in the environs around Vulci, near the west coast of cen- tral Italy in the mid-fifth century BC. It became an especially popular object of export and imitation, especially in the Celtic arena of Central Europe, where it was used for pouring mead, wine, and beer. One can see the inspira- tion of the Etruscan form emulated in the renowned Basse Yutz flagons in the British Museum,which are purely Celtic inventions.
The upturned beaked spout fell out of fashion later in the fifth century and disappeared entirely from the reper- toire of oinochoe shapes soon after. It remains for the modern aesthete the consummate example of Etruscan mastery and innovation of metalwork, leaving its distinctive form, and its derivatives, as highlights of the timeline of ancient utilitarian vessels.
Provenance: Private Collection, New York, 1980s.
Condition: Intact as preserved. Some treatment to surface patina around neck and shoulder.
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Ariadne specialises in works of art from the ancient world, including Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Byzantine, and Near Eastern. With prominent galleries on New York’s Upper East Side and in Mayfair, London, they are known for presenting rare and exceptional works with an emphasis on promoting the relevance of ancient art and its aesthetic impact in contemporary contexts.