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Home > Auctions > 24th May 2022 > 'The Everleigh' Romano-British Seated Figurine of the Philosopher Epicurus

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LOT 0089

GBP (£) 3,000 - 4,000
EUR (€) 3,500 - 4,670
USD ($) 3,750 - 5,000

Sold for (Inc. bp): £9,750



An important free-standing bronze figure of a philosopher, modelled in the round seated and robed on a roughly rectangular base, the body delineated by its folds, feet protruding from beneath the hem, head tilted backwards slightly, face bearded and moustachioed, full head of textured hair, possibly plaited from a central point above the nape of the neck, with stylised detailing to the eyes, slender arched brows and nose, possibly wearing a torc or other form of neck ornament or collar; lower down on the reverse it is apparent that the figure has been formed seated on a stool or small chair, indicated by a transverse rib with knopped terminals and legs; the head is disproportionately large in comparison to the rest of the body, and the folds of the clothing are not continued on the reverse of the figure. 2 1/2 in. (98.5 grams, 62.5 mm high, 24 mm wide). Very fine condition. Rare and of national significance.

Found whilst searching with a metal detector in Everleigh, Wiltshire, UK, on 10th August 2021, by Christopher Phillips.
Accompanied by a copy of the British Museum's Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) report no.WILT-81FA47.
Accompanied by a copy of the three page Treasure Hunting Magazine article where this item has been published.
Accompanied by a two page typed letter from the finder explaining the circumstances of finding and several copies of photographs taken when the object was discovered.
This lot has been checked against the Interpol Database of stolen works of art and is accompanied by AIAD certificate no.11206-186806.

Treasure Hunting Magazine, A Hobby of True Discovery, May 2022, p.41-43.

Cf. Richter, G.M.A., Portraits of the Greeks, Volume 2, London, 1965, pp.194-200, figs.1149-2225; cf. Kaufmann-Heinimann, A., Die Roemischen bronzen der Schweiz 1 Augst, Mainz, 1977, p.80 and Taf 88. no.82; cf. Faider-Feytmans, G., Les Bronzes Romains de Belgique, Mainz, 1979, pp.89-90, no.82, pl.56; cf. Wightmann, E.M. Roman Trier and the Treviri, London, 1970, pl.14a, p.150; cf. Boucher, S., Recherches sur les bronzes figures de gaule pre-romaine et romaine, 1976, p.169 and pl.64, no.306.

The object is complete. However, it may once have formed part of a more complex object, or served as a finial. The British Museum's Portable Antiquities report states: 'No direct parallel has been found. The seated pose is reminiscent of the Greek philosopher statues, eg. Epicurus. The head is reminiscent of representations of Celtic figures, with the almond shaped eyes supporting this idea. The hair, moustache and beard are very particular, generally reminiscent of Celtic figures and may represent Sucellus, a Celtic deity who is sometimes represented with extravagant curls on his head, together with beard and with an animal skin tied around his neck, or with a torc. However, associated with agriculture and wine, Sucellus is usually depicted with an olla (jar or small cooking pot) which are not represented in this instance, so it seems unlikely to be him.'

The PAS report goes on to state: '...Rev Professor Martin Henig...suggests an Epicurean or indeed possibly Epicurus himself as the model here. 'If a philosopher, with all that hair/beard and looking at Richter, Portraits of the Greeks, it could just be Epicurus, though of course, a very local version...Whether regarded as Epicurus or a generic philosopher by the owner it again like so much else speaks to a rather sophisticated culture rather than the back of beyond....More to the point may be a bronze found in Augst, Switzerland, Insula 31 in 1963...It depicts a bearded seated philosopher, more scraggy than ours, upper part of body nude, probably here a stoic.' Professor Henig also suggests the figure could represent a school teacher: 'The figure I was thinking of, like the schoolmaster on the Neumagen relief is a bronze from Nismes (Namur) in Belgium...It depicts a man clad in what looks like a Gallic cloak seated on a basket chair. One hand is pointing in an expressive way as though teaching...only a light beard.' Sucellus was also considered a candidate by Martin Henig: 'There is a bronze of the god Sucellus wearing a paenula...but he is standing. But I think a school teacher/ philosopher so more interest in learning.'