Balsamarium in the Form of the Bust of Antinous - LA.571 - For Sale
Balsamarium in the Form of the Bust of Antinous - LA.571
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This beautiful balsamarium, with its rich even olive green patina and delightful attention to details, takes the form of a handsome youth. Although a number of balsamaria or bronze oil vessels in the form of busts survive, few among these small portable objects bear portraits that can still be recognised today. Our work testifies to the power of imperial imagery and its dissemination as the vessel portrays Antinous, the youthful companion of the Emperor Hadrian. Cast in a sure and straightforward manner, the youth with long shaggy hair and full features became the official representation of Antinous. This work can be read on many levels as it masterfully blends the vessel’s utility with its subject’s sensuality.The balsamarium is cast in the shape of the upper body of a young man. He has a softly defined torso that stops above the waist. The sharply truncated arms recall the fashion in the portrait busts of the 2nd century AD. The bust sits atop a tall, elegantly proportioned foot that gives added weight to the work. The wonderfully curved arc of the handle is made in two parts and enhanced with leaf-like appendages. It is attached to the head by means of two small loops that project above the ears. These loops are secured by grape clusters, indicating a Dionysian association. When fully extended, the handle balances the height of the foot and frames the bust with an almost halo-like shape.