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Matched Pair of Roman Copper Lion-Headed Handles

Lot 0029A
Roman, Imperial Period, ca. 2nd to 3rd century CE. A gorgeous matched pair of copper door handles cast in high relief. Each handle mount depicts the head of a fierce lion with bare fangs, a wide snout, almond-shaped eyes with incised pupils, and a hanging tongue, all surrounded by radiating manes with incised fur. A fluted ring handle droops from a pair of open holes which flank the mouths of each beast, and four additional pierced suspension holes surround the outer peripheries. Both handles are enveloped with thick, lustrous layers of green and russet patina. Custom museum-quality display stands included. Size of each w/ handle (both are relatively similar): 6.125" Diameter x 8.75" H (15.6 cm x 22.2 cm); 10.625" H (27 cm) on included custom stand.

In the classical world, lions symbolized power, wealth, and might. They were famously featured in many ancient myths, perhaps most famous being that of Hercules (Herakles) slaying the Nemean Lion for his first labor. The fur of the Nemean Lion was believed to be impenetrable to attacks since, according to legend, it was made of gold and its claws were far sharper than any man-made blade and possessed the power to cleanly slice through even the toughest of armor. In the end, however, Hercules defeated the lion by strangling it to death and claimed its pelt as a trophy of the monumental achievement.

Lions were also the preferred iconography for buildings, coins, and statues throughout the ancient world. Notable examples include the Lion Gate to the Citadel of Mycenae, the Terrace of the Lions on the island of Delos, and the lion hunt mosaic from Pella featuring Alexander the Great engaged in a lion hunt. Of course, depictions of lions were also employed by Roman arenas where they would battle other animals, such as tigers and bears.

A stylistically-similar pair of bronze lion-headed handles hammered for GBP 3,750 ($4,944.62) at Christie's, London, South Kensington Antiquities Auction (sale 5488, October 7, 2010, lot 298): https://www.christies.com/lotfinder/Lot/a-pair-of-roman-bronze-lion-head-5358562-details.aspx

Provenance: private East Coast, USA collection, acquired from Artemis Gallery in 2014; ex-private Cape Cod, Massachusetts, USA collection, acquired in the 1960s

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#139183

Condition

Some restoration and stabilization to verso of both mounts. Both items have surface wear and abrasions commensurate with age, minor nicks to handles, peripheries, relief details, and versos, light fading to finer incised details, light encrustations, and slight bending to overall form of mounts and handles. Nice earthen deposits as well as fabulous green and russet patina throughout. Old inventory labels written in black ink on verso of each item.

Buyer's Premium

  • 24.5%

Matched Pair of Roman Copper Lion-Headed Handles

Estimate $6,000 - $9,000Oct 11, 2018