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A ROMAN BRONZE LAMP STAND WITH A YOUTH
A ROMAN BRONZE LAMP STAND WITH A YOUTH

CIRCA LATE 1ST CENTURY B.C.

Details
A ROMAN BRONZE LAMP STAND WITH A YOUTH
CIRCA LATE 1ST CENTURY B.C.
Perhaps depicting Alexander Helios, the son of Mark Antony and Cleopatra VII, dressed in eastern attire, wearing a sleeveless tunic over trousers, the tunic billowing open at the sides, draping across the front and back in thick U-shaped folds, a thick gathering falling along his thighs, the trousers elaborately patterned and adorned with buttons along their length, his shoes tied with long bows, the tongues tasseled, a twisted bracelet on each wrist, several details with silver embellishment, the paunchy child standing with his weight on his left leg, his right slightly pulled back with the knee bent, his right arm extending up and to the right, his gaze following the line of his arm, his left arm lowered behind, a partially-preserved attribute in each hand, perhaps a sash in the left, his full face with a protruding knobby chin, rounded cheeks and fleshy lips slightly parted, the articulated eyes with silver inlay, his wild curly hair gathered at the center of his forehead in a top-knot, wearing a high pyramidal headdress, decorated with patterned silver and copper inlay, flaps falling along the sides and back, standing beside a tall foliate support with a spiraling stem sprouting from a layered calyx, everted leaves above a molding along the shaft, four petals turned out above from which emerge six twisting budded branches around a central budding acanthus, likely serving as supports for hanging lamps, both atop a rectangular plinth with engraved rosettes and palmettes, perhaps once inlaid, with ovolo on the overhanging molding, guilloche on the lower molding, the four supporting feet in the form of a lion paw on a pad surmounted by volutes and palmettes
31½ in. (80 cm.) high
Provenance
Swiss Private Collection, prior to 1980.
European Art Market, 1999.
Literature
C. Rolley, "Kleopatras Kinder" in Kleopatra und die Caesaren, Munich (2006).
Sale room notice
Please note the additional publication information:
C. Rolley, "Kleopatras Kinder" in Kleopatra und die Caesaren, Munich (2006).

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Lot Essay

The costume and physiognomy of the youth distinctly recalls the famous "twin" bronze statues at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Walters Art Museum, each variously described as a Genius, Attis or simply a boy in eastern attire (see p. 255ff. in Mattusch, The Fire of Hephaistos, Classical Bronzes from North American Collections and p. 288ff. in Kozloff and Mitten, The God's Delight, The Human Figure in Classical Bronze). The costume of the present figure varies from that worn by the "twins" and rather relates to the billowing tunic and buttoned trousers known from depictions of the god Attis (see, for example, nos. 38-53 in Vermaseren, "Attis" in LIMC). The pyramidal headdress, known from the twin statues, and also seen in no. 51 in Vermaseren, op. cit., provides the strongest clue as to the identification of this figure. The headdress is thought to be Armenian or Commagenian and can be found on the monumental heads of rulers from Nimrud Dagh (see pl. 21 in Ridgway, Hellenistic Sculpture III, The Styles of ca. 100-31 B.C.).
Guy Weill Goudchaux examined the iconography of the twin figures in relation to historical Roman texts in his paper "Bronze Statuettes of a Prince of Armenia" delivered at the 8th International Congress of Egyptologists in Spring 2000 (Hawass, et al., Egyptology at the Dawn of the Twenty-first Century: Vol. 2, History, Religion, pp. 254-260). Goudchaux concluded that the bronzes likely depict Alexander Helios, son of Mark Anthony and Cleopatra VII, in the guise of an Armenian prince. This identification is based, in part, on Plutarch's Life of Antony and Cassius Dio's description of the "Donations of Alexandria" in 34 B.C., during which Anthony ceremonially divides the lands of the east conquered in his military campaigns amongst Cleopatra and his offspring. To his six-year-old son Alexander Helios he designates Armenia, Media and Parthia (to his younger son Ptolemy he gives Phoencia, Cilicia and Syria; and to Cleopatra, Cyprus, Libya and Coele Syria; see Plutarch, op. cit., ch. 54.4).
As Plutarch describes (ch. 54.5), Anthony presents his son Alexander Helios in "in Median garb, which included a tiara and upright headdress."
For Goudchaux, the youth portrayed in the Metropolitan and Walters bronzes is a portrait of a boy aged five or six, the age Alexander should have been during this ceremony (b. 40 B.C.). The costume would have been charged and recognizable as Anthony had forced the Armenian royal family to be publicly and triumphally presented before Cleopatra in Alexandria in gold chains and clad in their native dress. In 33 B.C., when Alexander was still only a boy, Anthony arranged his marriage to the Median princess Iotape. Goudchaux makes the point that in great contrast to his rival, Octavian, Anthony believed in integrating Roman nobility, and specifically his own legacy, into the Eastern monarchies.
Given the great similarities, and the lack of other comparanda, our bronze must be viewed in this same light, with the most recent scholarship of Goudchaux enlightening the earlier work on the famous twin bronzes. The variation of the costume can be explained as portraying what is obviously eastern attire, recognizable to a Roman audience from depictions of the eastern deity Attis.

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