A Roman Actor's Mask Applique, Roman Period, ca. 1st - 2nd century CE


$1,500 USD

An expressive applique typical of a first slave as depicted in the New Comedy, the beadless mouth wide open, a roll of hair across the raised brows and long, straight hair.

Slaves were favorite characters in Roman comedy, as they had been in Greek theater. The actors wore grotesque masks, and their costume included artificial exaggeration (e.g. of belly and phallus or erect penis) for comic effect; the phallus may have been invariable for male roles until the 4th cent. No limit seems to have been set, in speech or action, to the humorous exploitation of sex (normal and unorthodox) and excretion, and the vocabulary used in these types of humour eschews the euphemism characteristic of prose literature.

Kenneth Dover. "comedy (Greek), Old." The Oxford Companion to Classical Civilization. Oxford University Press, 1998. Oxford Reference Online.

For related example: J. Petit, Bronzes Antiques de la Collection Dutuit, Paris, Petit Palais, 1980, no. 69. and a similar pair of bronzes in the Hermitage, nos. V866 and V867.

Dimensions:  Mask Height: 1 in (2.5 cm), Mask width: 1.18 in (3 cm), Mounted Height: 3.5 in (9 cm)

Condition: Intact and in excellent condition overall. With museum quality custom mount.

Provenance: Private Maryland collection, acquired from the London trade in 2002 and previously in a private UK collection.