Roman, Imperial Period, ca. 1st to 2nd century CE. An exceedingly rare parade mask of a cavalry officer modeled to the likeness of the owner, with a hinge atop to attach the mask to a helmet made of a similar copper alloy. While the mask was intended to cover the entire face, it could also be held up for better vision or some fresh air. The visage presents almond-shaped eye slits lined by lids in repousse, an arched brow line above leading to an aquiline nose with openwork nostrils, an open mouth with slightly parted lips, and handsomely contoured cheeks and chin. True to the Roman embrace of naturalistic portraiture, there is a philtrum above the lips and all features are truly veristic. This mask was reportedly discovered in the river Maas, Maren-Kessel province, the Netherlands, in 1960s and the golden river patina attests to this. Furthermore, its discovery in the Netherlands speaks to the Roman Empire's dominion all the way to Northern Europe. Size: 5.125" W x 6" H (13 cm x 15.2 cm); 10" H (25.4 cm) on included custom stand.
A mask like this example would have been worn by a Roman auxiliary cavalry in equestrian exercises known as hippica gymnasia - a precursor to jousts and games that arose in the Middle Ages - and other elaborate ceremonies rather than actual battle. In addition to the special helmet, an officer would wear an elaborate shield, embroidered tunic, and perhaps greaves and thigh-guards. These hippica gymnasia and parades most likely were associated with religious festivals celebrated by the Roman army as well as displays to entertain visiting officials, and certainly, such highly decorated officers must have impressed the spectators in attendance.
Arrian, a provincial governor under Hadrian, who is the only known source to describe the hippica gymnasia, writes about how the horsemen, divided into opposing teams, took turns attacking and defending. Scholars also believe that some of these masks also depicted women in order to represent Amazons in re-enactments of wars between the Greeks and the Amazons.
A similar cavalry parade mask sold at Christie's London (5 July 2017, Lot 133) for GBP 100,000 ($130,819.50) - https://www.christies.com/lotfinder/Lot/a-roman-bronze-and-iron-cavalry-parade-6084755-details.aspx
Another similar example sold at Christie's London, South Kensington (6 November 2002, Lot 96) for GBP 80,750 ($105,701.99).
A similar mask may be found in Marcus Junkelmann's publication entitled, "Romische Helmet: Band VIII S (von Zabern, Mainz, 2000), AG 812, Taf XXI page 149, characterized as Kalkriese Type.
Several documents, which will be available to the future owner of this piece, confirm this piece's authenticity, including a letter written by Ralph Jackson of the British Museum (via email of 8 February 2012). In addition, a document written by former owner of this piece - P. (Peter) Arts of Archea Ancient Art, the Netherlands - on October 16, 2010 - states, "This object was dredged in the 1960's out of the river Maas in the surrounding of Maren en Kessel, province Noord Brabant, The Netherlands. I acquired it from the children of the dredger."
Provenance: private East Coast, USA collection, ex-P. (Peter) Arts, The Netherlands; (acquired by Archea Ancient Art, Amsterdam); ex Khader M. Baidun & Sons, Jerusalem; discovered in the river Maas, Maren-Kessel province, the Netherlands, 1960s; thence by descent to the children of the man who dredged the object; export license pdf available
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