Roman Empire, Middle East from the area stretching from the ancient capitol of Antioch down as far as Lebanon, ca. middle of 3rd century CE. A stunning section of a frieze or border from a Roman mosaic wall or floor decoration presenting an action-packed scene in which a winged Cupid (Greek Eros) is pursuing a fleeing goat or antelope through a verdant landscape of acanthus leaves that encircle each figure. The positions of Cupid and the goat (possibly antelope) connote a face off of sorts, with both configured in opposing composite profiles, and the animal turning its head a remarkable 180 degrees to stare down the hunting Cupid. All is delineated in square, rectangular, and triangular glass and stone tesserae of vibrant spring green, periwinkle, vermilion, and royal hues as well as sienna, slate grey, dove grey, beige, black and white. Please note that as glass tesserae were reserved for the most luxurious of homes in ancient Rome, this mosaic probably came from a fancy villa. Size: 48.375" W x 22.25" H (122.9 cm x 56.5 cm)
Goats figure prominently in ancient mythology. For instance, the wild goat was an attribute of Bacchus (Greek Dionysos), who transformed into a goat when fleeing from Typhon, and of course the satyrs and Pan possessed goat features. In relation to Cupid (Eros), goats were oftentimes depicted with Bacchus (Greek Dionysos) reclining in a cart driven by Cupid (Greek Erod) and drawn by goats. In addition, classical imagery includes depictions of Cupid (Eros) hunting animals including goats, as seen in a relief of the Miletos Ampitheater in Aydin Turkey.
Mosaics (opus tesellatum) are some of our enduring images from the Roman world, not only for their aesthetic beauty, but also because they reveal what Romans chose to depict and see every day decorating their private and public spaces. In the Roman province of Syria, which encompassed most of the ancient Near East/Levant, mosaics seem to have developed as a popular art form relatively late, with most finds coming from the 3rd century CE or later. Syria was one of Rome's wealthiest provinces, but it was also far removed from Rome itself and Roman culture was overlaid on enduring cultural traditions from Hellenistic Greece and the great civilizations that came before it. For example, Antioch-on-the-Orontes (modern day Antakya, Turkey), was the capital of northern Roman Syria, and its excavations in the 1930s revealed more than three hundred mosaic pavements.
See similar examples at the Musee de Souweida, provenant de Shahba-Philippopolis.
Provenance: private Vero Beach, Florida, USA collection; from an old Swiss collection, brought into the USA in 1989 to a private collection in New York
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Expected chips, cracks, and minor losses to tesserae. Losses to tesserae as shown and some glass tiles possibly replaced later. Modern matrix with a metal frame surrounding mosaic. Mosaic has wonderful honeycomb making if relatively light. Flexing can be a disaster for a mosaic. Honeycombing will not allow that to happen. The mosaics mounted on honeycomb are less than half the weight of the old cement mosaics. Suspension hardware on verso for hanging. Nice mineral deposits across areas of surface.