Wares of this type are usually referred to as African Red Slipware, and they were specific to the African province of the Roman Empire. Most pottery workshops are known from modern Tunisia and Algeria, and they were active from the 1st century until the 7th century AD. 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. Head vases, such as this fine example, were popular during the Hellenistic times however, production died down. It then resurfaced during the later centuries of the Roman period across several locations including North Africa. The theme of having vases with heads were associated with the cult of Bacchus and have been found as offerings or as grave goods.
Ancient Roman North-African Redware Jug of a Head
A fine Roman North African redware jug featuring an ovoid body moulded into an androgynous head. Below is a wide neck acting as the base of the vessel. The facial features have been rendered stylistically including the large, almond shaped eyes and pointed nose. The hair frames the face and follows around the body of the jug. Different incised markings in different directions create the flow of the hairstyle. The sides of the body taper in towards the cylindrical neck leading to a thick, oval rim decorated by three horizontal ridges. A handle has been attached at the back from the neck to the shoulder. Earthly encrustation is visible to the surface.
Provenance: Cambridgeshire, UK, collection, 1990s.
Condition: Fine condition, chipping to the back of the amhora.