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Home > Auctions > 5th December 2023 > Roman Bronze Antinous Balsamarium

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LOT 0119

GBP (£) 1,200 - 1,700
EUR (€) 1,400 - 1,980
USD ($) 1,510 - 2,140

Sold for (Inc. bp): £2,405

4 in. (300 grams, 10 cm).

Comprising the bust of Antinous or Bacchus (Greek Dionysus); the head modelled in the round, hair with voluminous waves, semi-naturalistic facial features, muscular neck and chest, two loops at the sides for the handle, silver inlaid eyes restored with black glass pupils.

Acquired on the German art market before 2000.
From an EU collection before 2020.

Cf. Facsády A., ‘Antropomorf Bronz "Balsamarium" Aquincumból (An antropomorphic Balsamarium from Aquincum’)’ in Archaeologiai Értesítő, 139 (2014), pp.157–169, fig.1 or 4, for the type.

The balsamarium (ointment or balsam container), is a modern term reflecting the Roman use of relatively small vessels as containers for aromatic oils, or storing and dispensing cosmetic liquids and/or scented powdered substances. These vessels were produced in the first three centuries of the Roman Empire in a variety of forms, including busts and animal shapes. The present balsamarium testifies to the power of imperial imagery and its dissemination across the empire, as the vessel portrays Antinous, Emperor Hadrian's ‘favourite’, whose untimely death in a boating accident led to his deification. The general facial characteristics of our figure are consistent with the stylistic portrait features of late antiquity and the personal features of Antinous, here appearing with large almond-shaped eyes, set into slightly upturned, incised pupils.