Roman, Imperial Period, ca. 1st to 3rd century CE. A heavy, cast bronze balsamarium, a rounded vessel with relief concentric circles in two registers around its body and a tall, narrow spout. A cast bronze chain is attached with sturdy decorative loops on either side of the spout, one of which remains in excellent condition, as does the chain itself. Roman bronzesmiths commonly employed the concentric circle motif as a ward against the "evil eye". Size: 3.5" W x 4.875" H (8.9 cm x 12.4 cm)
Balsamariums were, as the name suggests, used for holding balsam, the resinous, sap-like product of many different plants, as well as the oil used by athletes to clean their skin. Balsamaria most often depict women's or satyr's heads, but some are more abstract, like this example. Cosmetics were as important to the ancient Romans as they are to us today, used by men and women, and with specialized equipment made for holding them. Often balsamariums were so important that they were buried with their owners and some, like one of a woman's head at the British Museum (1868,0601.3) were made exclusively to be placed into tombs with offerings rather than used by the living.
Provenance: ex German collection, acquired at Gorny & Mosch, Munich, December 2013
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