Roman, Imperial Period, ca. 1st to 3rd century CE. A long piece of bone carved into a hair pin with a figure of a standing person in a draped cloak and long tunic (probably a chiton) with carefully rendered folded details. The figure has one arm raised above the head, and holds something long and flat on his or her head. She also bears a large, rounded headdress with what looks like a duck bill projecting from the front. The headdress suggests that this is a matron, but what she holds above her head is not clear. Comes with custom stand. Size: 0.9" W x 6.25" H (2.3 cm x 15.9 cm); height on stand: 6.9" (17.5 cm).
Elite Roman women had slaves devoted to hairdressing and cosmetics who would use pins like this one to create elaborate hairstyles. These hairstyles were often inspired by famous women like the wives of emperors, and, predictably, some Roman male commentators felt the need to make negative comments about them; for example, Juvenal mocked women's hairdos in the Flavian period. Bone pins would have been treasured items for Roman women, who used them to express their individuality and social status.
Compare to the figural hairpin with a portrait of Vibia Sabina, wife of Emperor Hadrian, at the Museum of London.
Provenance: private New Jersey, USA collection, acquired over twenty years ago
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