Roman, Imperial Period, ca. 2nd century CE. Finely carved in extremely high relief - virtually in the round - a section of a marble sarcophagus depicting the god Eros (Roman Cupid) or one of the Erotes (Roman Cupids) holding a large bunch of harvested grapes in his left hand. Eros, depicted as a nude cherub, is posed standing in contrapposto, with his weight shifted to his left leg, one arm angled to carry the fruit of the vine, the other missing its forearm, perhaps once carrying more grapes (a common theme of Hellenistic and Roman art) or his bow. In addition to possessing an impressive understanding of anatomy and an ability to render flesh from stone, the sculptor of this piece was skilled in communicating naturalism in Cupid's facial features - those generously lidded, almond-shaped eyes, apple cheeks, pudgy nose, and full lips - framed by a wavy coiffure adorned by a leafy crown. Size: 10.75" W x 24.5" H (27.3 cm x 62.2 cm); 27.375" H (69.5 cm) on included custom stand.
Eros was the mischievous yet endearing god of love, a minion, constant companion, and according to some classical writers, a son of the goddess Aphrodite. In the Roman period, Eros had become a child (to the earlier Greeks, he was a muscular youth), but here he retains his mischievous air, ready to help couples fall in love through not-entirely-innocent interventions.
In time, ancient poets and artists multiplied Eros into a group of Erotes - winged gods of love or Roman Cupides. Hesiod describes a pair - Eros (Love) and Himeros (Desire) - both present at the birth of Aphrodite. However, later writers added a third Erote named Pothos (Passion). Some depicted twin Erotes - Eros (Love) and Anteros (Love Reciprocated) - who were usually shown gracing the scales of love. Eventually, poets multiplied them to envision an even greater number of winged putti. Indeed, the Erotes were the creations of poetic invention without any distinct mythology of their own - as opposed to Eros, the God of Love.
See a marble sarcophagus fragment depicting Eros - although much smaller and less complete than this example - at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (accession number: 49.101.16) - https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/254643
Provenance: private East Coast, USA collection
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Losses to the left arm, lower legs/feet, high pointed areas such as peripheries of head ornament, grapes, nose, chin, and sections of relief plaque behind.