Magna Graecia, Apulia, Canosan Hellenistic Period, ca. 3rd century BCE. A tall, interesting sculpture of a bull's head atop four stacked, widely spaced discs on a central solid cylinder. The bottom disc is concave, with a pronounced, flat rim, and this item was probably made to be the lid of a vessel designed to hold offerings or burn incense and made to be placed into a tomb. The bull's head is stylized, with a squared-off snout punctuated by two raised nostrils, long ears, and two large, curved, upright horns. The piece is painted with the characteristic pale white, red, and blue pigments that are one of the hallmarks of Canosan artists. Size: 3.55" W x 6.5" H (9 cm x 16.5 cm)
Canosa was a wealthy city that only grew in importance after the Romans entered the area in the late 4th century BCE. Their ceramic workshops produced items that were exclusively used in funerary contexts, including large vases with extensive applied decoration and incense burners known as thymiateria. The bull motif is known as bucrania, and it was very popular throughout the ancient world, celebrating the ritual religious practice of sacrificing bulls as well as the symbolism of the bull as a virile, powerful animal.
Provenance: private East Coast, USA collection
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