Provincial Roman Silver Handle with a Female Figure

£ 1,200.00

A beautiful ancient Roman silver handle in the shape of a female figure. The woman is depicted nude, with her weight placed on her left leg, creating a beautiful contrapposto posture. Her bent arms are raised up reaching slightly behind her back. The woman’s stylised face is impassive and carefully detailed with large round eyes and a straight nose. Her hair is piled up on top of her head, arranged in two buns separated by a granulated ornament. The figure is standing on a teardrop-shaped plinth with a flat square top. The position of the hands and the subject matter suggests that the item might have served as part of a handle for a mirror.

Please note that the handle is mounted on a custom-made wooden stand. Please check the measurements provided.

Date: Circa 1st-3rd century AD
Provenance: Japanese (deceased) gentleman’s private collection, 1970-2010
Condition: Excellent condition. Beautiful black-green patina on the surface.

In stock

Physical appearance was of paramount importance in Ancient Rome and much energy was invested into it, as it would have reflected an individual’s social status. Hairstyles, along with jewellery, would have been one of the principal means to showcase wealth and prestige, as well as a major determinant of physical attractiveness. Slaves would keep their hair short, to reflect their low social status, and would tend to the intricate hairstyles of their masters, a scene typically carved on gravestones. Women would normally wear their hair drawn up and controlled by hairpins and nets, as loose hair was associated with loose morals. More elaborate hairstyles would have been achieved with wigs, which were commonly made out of human hair harvested from slaves. Different hairstyles characterised different time periods: the relative simplicity of off-swept hair tied at the back into a nodus, seen under the Julio-Claudian gens, was dismissed by complex styles with towering heights and multiple components during the Flavian era.

The complex and whimsical hairstyle of this particular figure would have been particularly appropriate for an item such as a mirror.

Weight 79.3 g
Dimensions L 3.9 x W 3.8 x H 9.9 cm



Reference: For a similar mirror handle style, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, item 89.2.555

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