The Duke of Northumberland presented the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle Upon Tyne with an electrotype copy of the Corbridge Lanx (above) during the mid 20th century. The original Lanx is now in the British Museum and is made of 97.5% pure silver and is believed to date to the later 4th century AD. This beautifully engraved tray was designed as a Roman serving platter for banquets or rituals. The significantly detailed mythological scene depicts Apollo standing (on the right) before a shrine holding his bow with his lyre at his feet. Apollo was a Greek god, son of Zeus, who gradually became adopted by the Romans during a plague in 433 BC when the Temple of Apollo Medicus was built near Pomerium (the religious boundary of Rome). The first Roman Emperor Augustus took Apollo as his personal guardian and built a temple in Rome on the Palatine dedicated to him following his victory at the battle of Actium in 31 BC (Grimal, 1991). Standing with her hand raised in conversation is the warrior goddess Athena. Presiding over the arts and literature, Athena was the daughter of Zeus and Metis and patroness of many towns. Her attributes were the spear, helmet and the aegis (animal skin/shield). In the scene above, Athena is talking to Artemis who was the twin sister of Apollo. The seated lady is believed to be Leto, who was the mother of Apollo and Artemis by Zeus, and the other woman may be her sister Ortygia. The scene is thought to be set on the island of Delos, a Greek island near Mykonos.
An excerpt of a court leet ruling in May 1735 on the ownership of the lanx states: “Isabel Cutter, daughter of Thomas Cutter of Corbridge, blacksmith, aged nine years… did on or about the tenth day of February last past find an ancient silver piece of plate in a great measure covered with the earth, one end sticking out of the ground, at a certain place within this manor near the north bank of the river Tyne by the water edge.”
To make the original Lanx, the design was first drawn out on the front of a cast silver sheet. The background was hammered down with small punches to leave the figures in relief – known as chasing. Extra detail was then scratched or engraved into the surface with a pointed tool.
Built in the 4th century BC, the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus (Bodrum, Turkey) was a tomb built for king Maussollos of Karia. Listed as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the building was adorned with marble sculptures. Featuring a stepped pyramid roof, a quadriga (four-horse chariot group) was positioned on the top which were approximately five metres in height.
The two largest surviving fragments of the quadriga are on display in the British Museum in London and detail the head of a horse with its original bronze bridle. The fragments were excavated by the 19th century British archaeologist Sir Charles Thomas Newton.
Built in the 4th century BC, the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus (Bodrum, Turkey) was a tomb built for king Maussollos of Karia. Discovered in the north site of the site, the male (above) and female (below) statues were part of thirty six such figures which once stood between the Ionic columns of the peristyle of the Mausoleum. The male figure is thought likely to represent one of Maussollos’ Hekatomnid ancestors and is depicted wearing a himation (cloak) and a trochades sandal on his right foot.
The female figure is identified as Artemisia who was queen of Halicarnassus. Carved from Pentelic marble, the figure also wears a himation (cloak), high-soled sandals and a chiton (tunic). Both of the sculpted figures date to circa 350BC and are on display in the British Museum in London.
The ancient capital city of the Lycian Federation was Xanthos, now in modern day Turkey. The Nereid Monument was built for the Lycian ruler Erbinna with its name deriving from the sea nymph (Nereids) statues placed between the columns of the tomb. The reconstructed small Ionic temple dates to circa 400BC with the facade on display in the British Museum in London. A mixture of Greek and Lycian style and iconography, the monument features relief sculptures and friezes with a decorated architrave and pediment.
Seianti Hanunia Tlesnasa was an Etruscan noblewoman. Now housed in the British Museum in London, the sarcophagus containing the remains of Seianti was found at Poggio Cantarello near Chiusi in 1886. This well preserved piece of Etruscan art depicts a reclining lady holding a mirror and provides a valuable insight into 3rd/2nd century BC Etruria, women in Etruscan society, portraiture and funerary art.
The sarcophagus contained the well preserved remains of the women herself which led to the reconstruction of the head. One purpose of the reconstruction was to compare it with the likeness on the sarcophagus lid. Using soft tissue measurements to build up the face on a plaster cast of the skull, the Unit of Art in Medicine at Manchester University recreated the head of the noblewoman.
Although the ancient artist portrayed Seianti somewhat younger and more flattering, the implication of the reconstruction is that at least some of the representations on Etruscan sarcophagi and cinerary urns bear true resemblances to the dead.
A marble statue of a now extinct breed of dog, a Molossian Hound, sits in the British Museum in London. The breed was common in Greco-Roman antiquity and the above statue is a Roman copy of a Hellenistic bronze original. At over 1 meter tall, the sculpture was acquired by the 18th century antiquarian collector Henry Constantine Jennings in Rome between 1753 and 1756.
On display in the British Museum in London is the limestone false door of Ptahshepses who was the high priest of Ptah. The false door was a feature of tombs in Ancient Egypt with the palace facade type of tomb (above) built to imitate the royal brick palaces. The necropolis cemetery of Memphis, Capital of Ancient Egypt, is over 30 kilometres long and located along the west bank of the River Nile. The tomb dates to circa 2490 to 2400BC.
Marble bust of Emperor Antoninus Pius: British Museum, London
Created during the early years of his reign, the image above depicts the emperor Antoninus Pius (AD 138-161) in military dress. The marble bust was found in the house of Jason Magnus at Cyrene, North Africa and thought to have been made in the 160’s. The bust is on display in the British Museum in London.