Rome, ca. 2nd to 3rd century CE. A bronze cast balsarium depicting a finely modeled bust of a male deity or youth, possibly Antinous, with a naturalistically rendered face, his head slightly tilted to the right, intricately delineated banana curled locks adorned with a vine leaf wreath, finished with twin loops possibly for attaching a hinged lid on the back of his coiffure. Superb detail and artistry. Gorgeous green patina! Vessels of this type are thought to have been used as oil containers by athletes. Size: 1.625" W x 2.5" H (4.1 cm x 6.4 cm)
Antinous was the favorite or possibly lover of the Roman emperor Hadrian who was deified following his death, worshipped sometimes as a god and sometimes as a hero. Unfortunately, very little is known about Antinous' biography. What is known is that he was born in Claudiopolis (modern day Bolu, Turkey) located in the Roman province of Bithynia. It is thought that he was introduced to Hadrian in the year 123, prior to being taken to Italy for quality education. By 128, he had become Hadrian's favorite, at which time he was taken on a tour of the Empire as part of the emperor's personal retinue. Antinous accompanied Hadrian during the annual Eleusinian Mysteries in Athens, and was believed to be with him when he killed the Marousian lion in Libya. Sadly, in October 130, Antinous died mysteriously as they were part of a flotilla going along the Nile. A range of suggested causes for his death have been put forth, ranging from accidental drowning to intentional sacrifice. After his death, Hadrian had Antinous deified and organized a cult to worship him.
Provenance: Ex-private collection of William Froelich, NY, acquired in the 1960s
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