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Home > Auctions > 25th May 2021 > Roman Gorgon Type Cavalry Sports Helmet Mask

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LOT 0293

GBP (£) 15,000 - 20,000
EUR (€) 17,440 - 23,250
USD ($) 21,040 - 28,050

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£13,500 (EUR 15,694; USD 18,935) (+bp*)

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Bid History: 0

Roman Gorgon Type Cavalry Sports Helmet Mask

3rd century AD

A bronze 'female-type' cavalry sports helmet mask of Medusa typology, modelled with the features of the Gorgon, Medusa; voluminous wavy hair intertwined in serpent-like curls and with three buns arranged like horns on the top of the head, the hair with central parting at the front; the eyes, nostrils and mouth delicately pierced; two piercings to the lower rim for attachment of the connecting straps; a slot to the top through which a fastening turning-pin secured the inner mask. 578 grams, 27cm (10 1/2"). Fine condition, restored.

Condition report [Click to show]

From an important East Anglian arms and armour collection; acquired from a Dutch private collection in the 1990s; previously in a Swiss family collection since before 1980; accompanied by an academic report by military specialist Dr Raffaele D'Amato; this lot has been checked against the Interpol Database of stolen works of art and is accompanied by AIAD certificate number no.10604-174115.

Cf. Robinson, R., The Armour of Imperial Rome, New York, 1975, pls.359ff.; Garbsch, J., Römische Paraderustüngen, München, 1979; D'Amato, R., Negin, A., Decorated Roman Armour, London, 2017, figs.225ff.

The distinguishing features of this type were the division of the helmet into two parts on the ear line, and sometimes the removable central area of the mask covering the eyes and mouth. Among the large number of surviving Roman masks is a series which has been generically indicated by Robinson as 'female type' but more conveniently classified by A. Negin as Medusa mask helmets. A mask capable of being taken off at any time proves that this type of helmet could be used, not only during parades and other ceremonies, but also in combat. It is in battle that the use of masks depicting Medusa is most probable; in the heat of battle this image performed both of its functions – to protect the owner and to intimidate the enemy, with the face of the terrible Gorgon believed to be able to transform humans into stone. Masks of this type are well known from Aquincum (Austria) Madara-Shumen and Kalenik (Bulgaria), Krefeld-gellep and Weißenburg, (Germany). One of the most beautiful specimens, also with horns on the head, is preserved and in the private collection of Plymouth, Providence Academy (Negin-D’Amato, 2017, fig.262).