• Christies auction house James Christie logo

    Sale 1915

    Antiquities

    6 December 2007, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 191

    A ROMAN MARBLE MITHRAIC RELIEF

    CIRCA 2ND-3RD CENTURY A.D.

    Price Realised  

    A ROMAN MARBLE MITHRAIC RELIEF
    CIRCA 2ND-3RD CENTURY A.D.
    The god standing to the right, with long flowing curly hair, clad in a short belted tunic and boots, a mantle pinned at his left shoulder, his left hand lowered holding a now-missing attribute, his right arm extended, the hand clasped by two pleading kneeling draped figures, his right foot upon the naked torso of a small figure below, a hound seated to his left, the upper left corner with Sol driving his quadriga to the right, the upper right corner with a downturned torch, together perhaps signifying the rising and setting sun
    23 5/8 in. (60 cm.) high


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    The iconography of this relief is unusual in that Mithras is depicted neither with his characteristic Phrygian cap, nor in his traditional tauroctonus pose. However, the identification of the main figure as Mithras can be supported by the inclusion of Sol on his quadriga, the downturned torch, and the hound. The Mysteries of Mithras held their god as the victor of a dualistic world, with light and good conquering darkness and evil. This relief may represent Mithras in his role as judge and arbiter of heaven, ruling over the fate of the three souls represented in the lower left corner. Mythraic religion and iconography was fully treated by Cumont in his 1903 work, The Mysteries of Mithra, a work which is still the centerpiece of modern Mithraic studies. In the chapter, "Doctrine of the Mythraic Mysteries," he introduces much of the more elusive iconography and the relation to the god's mythology and function.

    Provenance

    European Private Collection, late 1980s.