Mystery Mosaic

Last night I was lazily pondering the Cleveland Museum’s recent acquisition (and chatting with David Gill on twitter) and decided to poke around the Phoenix Ancient Art site — something I haven’t done in quite a while. While they do have a lot of interesting items that we will probably be mentioning in a later post, I was particularly struck by a couple of mosaic panels … the first is of an athlete:

click for the Phoenix Ancient Art page

Then there’s a theatre mask:

click for the Phoenix Ancient Art page

At the Swiss site of Phoenix Ancient Art one finds this satyr and maenad (although this particular picture comes from Artfinding, since I can’t seem to grab the original; clicking on it takes you to the Phoenix Art page):



What these three panels have in common is that they were all acquired from Asfar and Sarkis in the “early 1960s” (which might suggest a Syrian origin), but beyond that, the borders/frames around them all suggest they were all part of the same floor at some point and there are likely more. If so, it’s truly sad that they’ve been broken up and we can only imagine what the ‘program’ of the floor actually was … we have a theater mask and  a satyr and maenad, then someone identified as an athlete. Maybe the athlete is actually an actor? Sadly, when mosaics are broken up like this and we don’t know where they actually came from, we’ll never know …

Drusus and the Cleveland Museum of Art

The Cleveland Museum of Art has reversed the recent trend (it seems) of museums studiously avoiding acquiring antiquities (whether the provenance is secure or not) and recently announced the acquisition of a head of Drusus (and a Maya piece which is outside of this blog’s purview … fwiw, I’ve never seen a ‘bicultural’ acquisition announcement like this before; is the announcement of the acquisition of one piece meant to distract from some missing details of the acquisition of the other?). Here’s the salient bit from their press release:

The Cleveland Museum of Art is a collecting institution and has been acquiring antiquities since it was founded in 1913. These latest acquisitions highlight an ongoing commitment to enhancing the museum’s permanent holdings across the full scope of its collections with outstanding works of art. The museum studies, preserves and displays great works of art from various cultures, periods and genres while fully respecting appropriate collecting practices. Especially in fields where works are challenging to collect, the museum has built its holdings with an overriding emphasis on the quality and significance of individual acquisitions.

“I am pleased we can add these important works of art to the museum’s Classical and Pre-Columbian holdings and continue our collecting of the finest examples of art from across cultures and time periods,” stated David Franklin, the Sarah S. and Alexander M. Cutler Director of the Cleveland Museum of Art. “I believe museums play an invaluable role in society as repositories and presenters of the world’s art history, and through responsible collecting, museums make accessible the world’s art objects for the public’s enjoyment and education.”

Portrait Head of Drusus Minor (13 BC–AD 23)
Exquisitely rendered masterpiece from Early Roman Empire becomes a new highlight of renowned antiquities collection

Portrait Head of Drusus Minor (13 BC–AD 23), a large-scale, marble portrait of the son of the Roman Emperor Tiberius that was carved during the early Imperial Period, possibly during the lifetime of Jesus Christ, is one of only approximately 30 large portraits of Drusus Minor to have survived from antiquity. This portrait head stands out among this group, owing to the powerful refinement and sensitivity of its carving, its excellent state of preservation and its monumental scale.

The newly acquired portrait of Drusus Minor was most likely created posthumously. When he died at age 37, the Julio-Claudian prince was next in line to the imperial throne after his father Tiberius. This masterwork was carved during a momentous transitional period in world history, at the intersection of the Greco-Roman and Judeo-Christian traditions.

The head exhibits traces of original paint used to enhance the illusion of a living person, rendered on a monumental scale—well over life-size. Its distinctive facial features and hairstyle, as compared with other large portrait sculptures and coins, identify the subject as Drusus Minor. Ancient sources indicate that Drusus Minor was prone to fits of rage, made worse by heavy drinking. He relished gladiatorial blood sport and other ritualized killings, which shocked the Roman public and alarmed his father. Although not known for his speaking eloquence, in AD 14 he delivered a funeral oration for Augustus from the rostra in the Roman forum; the next year he was appointed to the high office of Consul. After the death of his adopted brother Germanicus, Drusus was the heir apparent, but he died at age 37, allegedly from poison at the hands of his wife.

The ownership history of the Drusus Minor portrait has been traced to the late 19th century, when it was the property of the Bacri family of Algiers, Algeria. Sometime before 1960, Fernand Sintes inherited the work, and in 1960 transferred it from Algiers to France. In 2004, it was sold at auction in France. […]

… and here’s a photo of the piece:

The collecting history for the piece (alas) is not as secure as it appears at first blush; one should definitely read David Gill’s growing series of posts on the matter:

cf. in the New York Times:

Roman Bridge from Sostra?

Another tantalizingly brief one from Bulgaria … this time from the Focus news agency:

“An ancient Roman bridge was found over Osam River by the Sostra stronghold near the town of Troyan”, archeologist Assoc. Prof. Dr. Ivan Hristov, deputy-director of the National Historical Museum said for FOCUS News Agency .

The discovery was made today. The ancient Roman bridge over Osam River connects roadside station of Sostra stronghold with a Thracian sanctuary, which is being currently researched.

“Since one week an expedition of the National Historical Museum and the National Archeological Institute and the Museum of Arts in Troyan has been working on exploration of the Thracian sanctuary of the Thracian Horseman dated from the Roman ages”, Assoc. Prof. Dr. Ivan Hristov said.

In the past, we’ve heard of a Gallienus Inscription being found in the area … for a sort of overview of what has been found there over the years, here’s an item which I put in Explorator but strangely not in rogueclassicism: “Sostra” Fortress

Riace Bronzes Back from Vacation Soon

Apparently that video of the Riace Bronzes going on vacation last year (The Riace Bronzes Go On Vacation) was in anticipation of them getting some restoration work (perhaps the earthquake stuff mentioned here). Whatever the case, they’re going to be back on display “later this year’, according to ANSA … an excerpt:

Italy’s iconic Riace Bronzes will return to their home at the Reggio Calabria National Museum later this year after lengthy restoration work.

For almost three years the 2,500-year-old ancient Greek statues representing warriors have been in the Calabrian regional government’s headquarters, undergoing a long-awaited restoration. A host of chemical, laser and electromagnetic tests designed to help experts better understand where the statues came from, and who created them, were also carried out.

So now, it’s almost time for them to return to their permanent home.

According to the superintendent for archaeological and cultural heritage of Calabria, Simonetta Bonomi, restoration work should be completed near the end of the year and the two warriors “will be back home again” in time for Christmas.

The celebrated bronzes were found in August 1972 off the coast of Calabria and quickly captured worldwide attention. They were so highly prized that they are rarely allowed to travel from their home, despite repeated requests.

Even former Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi was turned down twice after seeking to borrow the statues for Group of Eight summits.

During the current restoration work, the Riace Bronzes, last let out in 1981 for a triumphant round-Italy tour, have been kept inside a purpose-built area with a glass front allowing visitors to watch the delicate restoration work.

Meanwhile, the Reggio Calabria museum has been undergoing restorations itself while the bronzes have been away. Approximately six million euros have been earmarked for that project, and regional authorities have released the final funds need to complete the work before year end.

The Bronzes were discovered in 1972 by a Roman holidaymaker scuba diving off the Calabrian coast and turned out to be one of Italy’s most important archaeological finds in the last 100 years.

The statues are of two virile men, presumably warriors or gods, who possibly held lances and shields at one time. At around two metres, they are larger than life.

The ‘older’ man, known as Riace B, wears a helmet, while the ‘younger’ Riace A has nothing covering his rippling hair. […]