Roman, early Imperial Period, ca. 1st to 2nd century CE. An exceedingly rare, cast-leaded-copper tintinnabulum (roughly "little bell" in Latin) meant to have petite bells suspended from the myriad perforations. The elaborate ornament boasts a phalliform horse with two front bodies bearing hooved equine legs, shaggy manes, and phallic heads as well as a lengthy singular phallus beneath the spherical testes that comprise the latter half of the 'animal.' The 'rider' also exhibits a phalliform body with one perforated hand raised as if wielding a whip and the other lowered as if grasping the reins of his galloping steed. Tintinnabula like this example were hung near doorways or entrance ways into homes or businesses and could be rung like a modern doorbell or simply left to jingle when walked past. Lustrous layers of matte brown and green patina cover the entire figure and imbue it with a stylish presentation evocative of ancient Rome. Size: 3.375" L x 2.625" W x 2.125" H (8.6 cm x 6.7 cm x 5.4 cm)
For a stylistically similar example with a human rider, please see The Metropolitan Museum of Art, accession number 60.117.1.
For another stylistically similar example with its original bells, please see The British Museum, museum number 1856,1226.1086.
A third stylistically similar example, of a larger size and with no rider, hammered for GBP 12,500 ($16,156.50) at Christie's, London "Antiquities" auction (sale 14231, December 6, 2017, lot 65).
Provenance: private Chicago, Illinois, USA collection, purchased in 2015; ex-private Essex, UK collection, purchased in 2010; ex-private Swiss collection; ex-private German collection, acquired around 1970
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Original bells missing. Minor abrasions to phallic bodies, rider, lower phallus, and suspension loops, with light softening to some finer details, otherwise intact and choice. Light earthen deposits and great patina throughout.