Roman, Imperial Period, ca. 1st to 3rd century CE. A stunning and fierce cast-bronze figurine of a standing eagle with a raised head turned to its left. Meticulous feather detailing on the head, chest, and flowing wings emphasize its naturalistic qualities. The eagle stands atop a pair of narrow, clawed feet with bent legs, almost as if it were ready to take flight at a moment's notice. The turned head displays teardrop-form eyes, a planar brow, a petite incised mouth, and an intimidating aquiline beak. The animal projects a probing intelligence with its strong gaze. What a striking portrait! Size: 6.7" W x 8.5" H (17 cm x 21.6 cm)
The eagle was a highly-symbolic animal among the Roman military and was a great symbol of pride and victory in the eyes of the legions. Known as "aquila" in Latin, the eagle was a representation of honor, victory, and cohesiveness within a legion. One member of each legion was referred to as an aquilifer, or "eagle-bearer," as it was their primary duty to carry and protect that legion's designated eagle standard. If ever an aquila was lost or stolen, it was the primary obligation of the aquilifer to go to any lengths to recover the standard and see to its safe return. Losing an eagle standard was considered a grave omen for its respective legion and would typically lead to distrust and paranoia among the legionaries. To quote a piece of historical fiction set in Roman Britain entitled The Eagle of the Ninth (Rosemary Sutcliff, 1954), "Eagle lost, honor lost; honor lost, all lost."
Provenance: private East Coast, USA collection; ex-Christie's, New York "Antiquities" auction (sale 2007, June 4, 2008, lot 270); ex-private collection, acquired in Switzerland in 1995
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The lower ends of the wings have been repaired. This is well done and difficult to see. Rich green patina with excellent preservation of form and details. Deposits in the lower profile areas.