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Home > Auctions > 24th November 2020 > Roman Monument to Senator Apellinarius and Kallisti

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LOT 0070

GBP (£) 60,000 - 80,000
EUR (€) 66,080 - 88,110
USD ($) 77,830 - 103,770

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£54,000 (EUR 59,471; USD 70,045) (+bp*)

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Roman Monument to Senator Apellinarius and Kallisti

3rd century AD

An extremely large and imposing funerary stela, divided into three distinct sections, surmounted by a triangular pediment within which is presented the head of a female with long braided hair; below this there is the first panel, a rectangular frame inscribed at the top with Greek inscription (translation by R. Falkiner): AND AS…WE DISAGREE; followed inside the frame by the facing portraits of Apellinarius and Kallisti depicted as equals, side-by-side, Apellinarius with wavy hair incised in stylised curls and wearing his toga over a simple tunic with a wide, v-shaped collar, and Kallisti shown as a commanding middle-aged matrona with the veil indicating married status falling from her voluminous hairstyle and draped around her shoulders; to the far left of the frame, a hand, carved in shallow relief within a square border; it follows another Greek inscription: GODS OF THE UNDERWORLD UPON THE EARTH ROOTED; under it there is the second central panel representing, enclosed within bands of text, a conventional, stylised funerary scene in shallow relief, Apellinarius reclining on a high triclinium dining bed, wearing a heavily-draped toga supporting himself with his left hand, and holding a laurel wreath aloft in his right, Kallisti behind him in a similar pose with veil; to the far left a young man, dressed with a paenula, long trousers and closed calcei, holding a bird (dove?) in his right hand, possibly the couple's son, mourning his father and preparing to take his place as the male head of household; beneath the bed a small, highly stylised female slave wearing a peplos, her unveiled hair pulled into a bun at the nape of her neck, carrying a cup to the offering table; the following lower panel shows eight lines of Greek text, with a ninth incised on the frame below, keeping the following epigraphic cartridge, closed inside a tabula: KALLISTI OF BITHYS CONSTRUCTED THIS MONUMENT FOR HERSELF AND THE SENATOR APELLINARIUS SON OF APELLINARIUS THE GOOD/WORTHY SENATOR AND PRIEST OF THE GOD APOLLO WHO LIVED TWENTY YEARS OUT OF HIS OWN MEANS AND WHO EVERYONE SAW NOT CAUSED PUBLIC EXPENSE, AND IF ANYONE IS CAUGHT DOING SOMETHING AGAINST ….MAY HE BE BROUGHT TO JUSTICE AND FINED 5000 DENARII FOR IMPIETY, AND PAYABLE TO THE IMPERIAL TREASURE. 443 kg, 164 x 95cm including stand (64 1/2 x 37 1/2"). Very fine condition, some restoration.

Property of a London gentleman; formerly in a private collection since the early 1970s; previously acquired on the London art market in 1970; accompanied by an Art Loss Register certificate, and expertise of Dr. Laura Proffitt and Dr. Raffaele D’Amato; this lot has also been checked against the Interpol Database of stolen works of art and is accompanied by AIAD certificate number no.10136-136699.
See Woysch-Méautis, D., La representation des animaux et des êtres fabuleux sur les monuments funéraires grecs. De l’époque archaïque à la fin du IVe siècle av. J.-C, Cahiers d’Archéologie Romande, no.21, Lausanne, 1982; Jovanova, L., Sepulchral monuments from Scupi (Colonia Flavia Scupinorum), in Funerary sculpture of the western Illyricum and neighbouring regions of the Roman Empire (ed. Cambi N., Koch G.), (proceedings of the International Scholarly Conference held in Split, Sept. 2009), 709-745, Split, 2013; Douitsi A., Funeral monuments in Macedonia during the Archaic and Classical periods, Thessaloniki, 2017; Proeva, N. Non-Figural Motifs on the Roman Funerary Stelae from Upper Macedonia (Problems of Dating and Interpretation in Искусство и художественная культура Древнего мира, vol. 7, Skopje, 2017, pp.147-158; this piece shows compositional similarities with the late second-century AD funerary relief of Neiki, wife of Onesimos, from the Roman province of Macedonia, displayed in the Archaeological Museum, of Thessaloniki.
The funerary monument was commissioned by a woman named Callisti (meaning in Greek the most beautiful; Καλλίστῃ is the dative singular of the feminine superlative of καλός, beautiful, in Latin sources, the word is formosissima), in honour of her late husband, a Senator called Apellinaris, son of Apellinarius, the priest of Apollo. The unusually large size and intricate relief sculpture attests to the family high status as stalwarts of the provincial elite. The onomastic data recorded on these stelae show that the dead were mostly Romanized natives, like in the many stelae from Macedonia and Balkans (Proeva, 2017, p.155). The woman within the triangular pediment is probably Persephone, wife of Hades, and Queen of the Underworld, considering the dedication of the stela to the Gods of the Underworld. The disembodied hand on the left of the panel was almost certainly intended to have an apotropaic function, protecting the family from evil in this world and the next. This symbol can be traced as far back as ancient Mesopotamia and Near East, and retains its meaning to this day in the form of the hamsa and 'hand of Fatima' motifs popular in the Middle East and Eastern Mediterranean. The bird in the hand of the young man could be a symbol of youth, vigour and attractiveness. However, we should not exclude another possibility, much more tragically realistic. The theme of a figure holding a bird and especially a dove is most common in the grave 'stelae' of Macedonia and Balkans. It has been argued that it is an Ionian characteristic coming mostly from the Aegean islands. However, the presence of such a motif in a Cretan grave 'stele' still of the 7th century BC (Douitsi, 2017, fig.20) makes the matter more complicated as regards to the origin of the theme. The presence of the bird in figure or multi-figured scenes in grave monuments is usual in tombstones from Attica, Boeotia and Thessaly during the 5th century BC and it expands even further during the next century. Although scholars have given a chthonian essence in the presence of the bird, it is more probable that it signified the premature death of the deceased, and this topic continued in Roman Age. The early death of a person was a horrible event that attracted attention and had to be pictured in the eternal grave monuments of antiquity. The plain presence of the bird inside the hands of the young person means that the bird refers to this person’s death and to nothing more. We should not forget that the bird used to be part of a child’s set of toys, proof of which we have in the 'stele of Xanthos' (Woysch-Meautis, 1982, pp.39-46). The female slave shown smaller than the offering table denotes the family's status and wealth, and the slave's lowly social status. Across the Roman Empire, following earlier Classical Greek conventions, it was considered a matter of prestige to display a slave on one’s funerary stela; the fact that the enslaved person was supposedly willing to mourn her master attested to the deceased’s generosity and clemency.