African Red Slipware is identified as the final development of terra sigillata, from the Latin, meaning ‘sealed earth’. Terra sigillata was a form of Roman red slipware pottery, which was developed around the mid-1st century BC, both for domestic use and export. These pieces were modelled on the lathe directly in the matrix, on which decorative motifs were hollowed out and then impressed on the smooth body of the vessel, appearing therefore in relief. Sometimes the decorative motifs in relief would have been applied to the vessel by using a very thin, liquid clay. One of the most important centres of production was the Italian city of Arretium (modern day Arezzo). However, terra sigillata wares were produced also in Gaul and later in North Africa and Asia Minor, where the Italian prototypes were initially imitated, then evolved into new shapes, creating unique and distinctive styles. Terra sigillata vessels were often decorated in accordance with traditional Greco-Roman tastes, presenting images of classical mythology, hunting scenes and divine figures.
Ancient Roman North African Red Slip Ware Fragment
An Ancient Roman red-ware fragment from North Africa depicting an naturalistic face of a young male individual. His accentuated traits are rendered with great sensitivity, particularly his slender nose and plump lips, raised in a faint smile. Heavy eyelids shape his large almond eyes; the irises marked by a deep single line suggest a vacant stare, imbuing the portrait with a sense of calm and serenity. A plaster filling has been applied on the reverse of the fragment, which was likely part of a large pouring vessel, possibly a lagynos or a jar. A metal hoop has been attached to the unworked plaster, allowing the piece to be hung.
Condition: Good condition, with some signs of ageing to the surface. The metal hook has been glued to the back of the fragment.