Roman, Eastern Mediterranean, Imperial Period, ca. 2nd to 4th century CE. A magnificent mosaic exhibiting a pastoral scene of a male and female caught in a moment of passion, all delineated in square, rectangular, and triangular stone tesserae in vibrant hues of pink, beige, blue, tan, gray, green, orange, white, and black. The captivating scene displays a woman laying semi-recumbent and covered in a blanket as she gazes up towards her male companion, who stands above her cloaked in a leopard skin. The reclining beauty lifts her blanket with one hand, revealing a gathering of fruits - likely a symbol of fertility - and inviting her partner to join her. Leaning on a rock, the young man looks off in the opposite direction, keeping guard for any onlookers, while he raises his leopard hide, preparing to partake in their sensual encounter. Size: 49" W x 64" H (124.5 cm x 162.6 cm)
This tantalizing romance is surrounded by a rocky mount to the left and a flowering tree sprouting from the right corner and spreading its branches above the young woman, perhaps acting as another metaphor of fecundity. Our main characters are also joined by 2 animals - a hunting dog in the lower left corner and a lamb in the lower right. The scene is additionally flanked by a lovely geometric border, featured above and below.
Leopard skins, like the one seen in this example, were typically associated with Bacchus (Greek Dionysos or Dionysus) and his followers. Bacchus was the great Roman god of wine, vegetation, pleasure, and festivity, and was the deity to which the Romans dedicated their festival of drunken revelry known as Bacchanalia. Though a prominent subject in Roman art, he was not always depicted in the same manner. The Romans typically characterized him as an elderly man with a lengthy beard or an attractive, effeminate, long-haired youth. His attributes typically included the thyrsus (a long staff topped with a pinecone), a drinking cup, a leopard or panther skin like the figure in this example, and a fruiting vine, and he was usually accompanied by a troop of satyrs and maenads. Thus, these 2 lovers may very well be either Bacchus or a satyr and a maenad from Bacchus's ecstatic retinue.
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.
This piece has been searched against the Art Loss Register database and has been cleared. The Art Loss Register maintains the world's largest database of stolen art, collectibles, and antiques.
Provenance: private Vero Beach, Florida, USA collection; ex-private collection of a European gentleman, acquired between 1970 and 1980 from a licensed dealer in Lebanon, imported to USA in 1988
All items legal to buy/sell under U.S. Statute covering cultural patrimony Code 2600, CHAPTER 14, and are guaranteed to be as described or your money back.
A Certificate of Authenticity will accompany all winning bids. PLEASE NOTE:
Due to recent increases of shipments being seized by Australian & German customs (even for items with pre-UNESCO provenance), we will no longer ship most antiquities and ancient Chinese art to Australia & Germany.
For categories of items that are acceptable to ship to Australia or Germany, please contact us directly or work with your local customs brokerage firm.
Display stands not described as included/custom in the item description are for photography purposes only and will not be included with the item upon shipping.
Fragment of a larger piece. Losses of some tesserae on peripheries, as well as the upper left and lower right corners. Chips and abrasions to other tesserae in scattered areas, light encrustations, and light fading to colors of some tesserae, all commensurate with age. Otherwise, excellent with gorgeous preservation to decorative motifs and wonderful remains of most tesserae coloration.