Finials, appliqués and mounts, such as this fine example, were extremely popular across the Roman Empire. It was the custom for the ancient Romans, especially the wealthy, to have highly decorated everyday life objects, such as jewellery boxes or toiletries tables.
In ancient Greek and Roman mythology and culture, panthers were considered to be the faithful companions of the wine god Dionysus, or his Roman counterpart Bacchus. The panthers were sacred to the god, who is often depicted riding them on sculptures, mosaics and wall paintings. The Dionysian thiasos (procession) was one of the favourite subjects in Ancient Roman art. It featured the god and his wife Ariadne at the centre, surrounded and followed by various animals such as panthers, lions, tigers and creatures such as satyrs and nymphs. Exotic and wild animals were associated with the wild and uncontrolled nature of this god.