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LOT 0345

Sold for (Inc. bp): £13,000

14 in. (1.4 kg total, 35.5 cm diameter).

A discoid gladiatorial or cavalry shield with shallow domed central panel, adorned with a circular boss bearing a stylised Medusa head in raised relief, snake heads emerging from her hair, their tails spiralling at ear height; two flat-section rectangular straps running parallel on the reverse, a perspex cylinder fixed between the straps, serving as a display base.

Ex N.K., Paris-Geneva (1910-1996); thence by descent.
Accompanied by an academic report by Dr Raffaele D'Amato.
This lot has been checked against the Interpol Database of stolen works of art and is accompanied by AIAD certificate no.11392-189855.

Cf. the British Museum, museum number 1756,0101.970, for a very similar style gorgoneion; Antonucci, C., L’esercito di Cesare 54-44 a.C., Concorezzo, 1996; D’Amato, R., Arms and Armour of the Imperial Roman Soldier, London, 2009; Mattesini, S., Gladiatori, San Egidio alla Vibrata, 2009; D'Amato, R., Negin A., Decorated Roman Armour, London, 2017.

The typology of round Roman shields of embossed bronze, could be related to various categories of warriors. The round parma, that according to Livy (XXI,4-5), was the main shield of the Roman cavalry since the 3rd century B.C., and continued to be the typical shield of the cavalryman in the late Consular Age, as mentioned by Sallustius (Hist., IV,4). This shield, which was about 80 cm in diameter, is depicted on a monument from Via Latina, probably the grave of a Roman cavalry officer (monument now in Hever Castle, England), showing the typical weaponry of a cavalry officer. Many officers used the parma from horseback alternating with the round clypeus. An original specimen from the Castra Caecilia shows a diameter of 42 cm (Antonucci, 1996, p.31 and plate D2). The shields decorated with the head of Medusa, following the Hellenistic and Etruscan models (D’Amato-Negin, 2017, fig.13), are visible on Roman monuments until the 3rd century A.D.

Other specimens of embossed Roman shields have been found in gladiatorial context. A splendid embossed example was found in the gladiatorial barracks at Pompeii (Mattesini, S., 2009, p.178). The classes gladiatoriae of the Hoplomachi were part of the fighting categories of the Parmularii, who used a small round shield. A small round shield (Parma Equestris) was used also by the classes of the Equites (cavalrymen), and some of their shields with embossed decoration were well represented on the lost frescoes from the podium of the amphitheatre of Pompeii.