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LOT 0111

Sold for (Inc. bp): £16,250

28 x 18 in. (12.3 kg, 71 x 46 cm).

An imposing fresco fragment representing a young military commander dressed in high rank Roman uniform, standing with his face slightly turned to the right and leaning on his left leg, the right leg brought slightly forward; the right hand holding a long spear of which the butt is visible, a round flat shield of cavalry type (parma) on his left arm; gladius hanging from a baldric on the left side of the body; the warrior wearing a short sleeveless tunic of Greek type, off-white in colour with light red reflexes, decorated by two white segments in the lower skirt, and a military cloak of cerulean colour, arranged over a muscled bronze torso armour; the legs protected by bronze greaves and head by a bronze helmet restored as an Italic type Buggenum surmounted by a white cylinder from which a horsehair crest emerges, some restoration; mounted.

Acquired 1970s-1990.
North American private collection.
with Sotheby's, London, 9 July 1984, lot 224.
Accompanied by an archaeological report by Dr Raffaele D’Amato.
This lot has been checked against the Interpol Database of stolen works of art and is accompanied by search certificate number no.10647-174367.
Accompanied by a copy of the Sotheby's catalogue pages.

The piece shows compositional similarities with the fresco of the House of the Vettii in Pompeii, representing the god Mars, cf. D’Amato, R., Sumner, G., Arms and Armour of the Imperial Roman Soldier: From Marius to Commodus, 112 BC-AD 192, London, 2009, fig.86.

The fresco has been previously interpreted as a representation of Alexander the Great, but a more careful analysis of the military equipment worn by the warrior allows us to consider it as a character from Roman history or mythology, like the god Mars or the hero Marcus Iunius Brutus, Magister Equitum of the first Roman Res Publica, who freed the city from Etruscan tyranny. The bronze greaves and muscled armour, which was from the 1st century B.C., usually reserved for military commanders, associated with the paludamentum suggests a high rank graduate of the Augustan or even of Caesar’s army, maybe a military tribune, as the model for the figure. However, his cerulean cloak could allow the identification with a Magister Equitum (cavalry commander) being the cerulean and blue associated with Neptune or Poseidon, protector of the horses. Also the combination of a cavalry shield, the parma, with the long cavalry spear and the Buggenum helmet (or the Boetian helmet restored as such) are visible on Volterra’s urns as fittings of 1st century B.C. Roman cavalrymen. If the man represented is a Magister Militum, and the original fresco referred to episodes of Roman history, the identification with Brutus can be plausible, although the fresco, before restoration, missed the upper part of the helmet. If the Geminae Pinnae (twin plumes) were originally visible, we cannot exclude the interpretation of the figure as the god Mars, a more consonant image with the celebration of the Julio-Claudian family and its divine origins. The type of represented uniform could suggest a dating to the late Consular period.