Lot 1029: Pre-Viking 'Freyr and Freyja' Erotic Mount
December 7, 2016
Harwich, United KingdomLive Auction
Description: 3rd-5th century AD. A bronze mount in a form of a standing male and a female couple, each with a right hand holding a stretched left hand touching each other's genitals, a female figure decorated with incised belt decoration; lower part of male legs missing. See Oldtidens Ansigt, Det kongelige Nordiske Oldskiftselska og Jysk Arkaeologisk Selskab, 1990, p.134, 138, for the gesture and design. Accompanied by an Art Loss Register certificate. 6.07 grams, 42mm (1 3/4"). Property of a London businessman, from his grandfather's collection formed after World War II; thence by descent 1972. Supplied with a positive X-Ray Fluorescence metal analysis certificate. A parallel to the style and pose of this 'couple' can be seen on several small bronzes inspired by Roman statuettes representing gods. However, similar bronze statues were already known in Scandinavia since the Bronze Age and were most likely of a ritual significance. The specific crossed hand on a chest is a puzzling symbol, possibly symbolising a gesture of a specific god, ritual act or blessing. Some facial similarities can be seen on the Broddenbjerg man, a wooden statue with a strong phallic symbolism, most likely pointing to fertility. Another similarity can be observed on rock art in Scandinavia, especially the long neck features and the image of a 'divine couple', a strong motif found extensively in the late Iron Age on many golden sheets, known as guldgubbers. Several scholars argue that this image represents the marriage of god Frey and giantess Gerd; however it may also represent a union of Frey with his sister Freyja. From later sources, it is known that the Vanir, an ancient race of gods, had a custom to marry or have intercourse with their siblings. Njord, the father of Frey and Freya was from this tribe, and sources suggest that they were conceived with his sister-wife. She might have been the mysterious Suebi goddess Nerthus, which Roman historian Tacitus wrote about in Germania. Her statue was kept in a sacred grove on an unknown island, drawn in a holy cart and only priests could touch her. Everywhere the goddess came she was met with celebration of peace and hospitality. After she returned to the temple, everything was washed by slaves, who were drowned short after. Her connection with fertility, peace, and water, definitely points to the Vanir race; and she shares several similarities with the later worshipping of Frey. This mount probably represents either Njord and Nerthus, or Frey and Freya, and may had been used as a votive offering or worn as an amulet to invoke the fertile powers of those gods. [No Reserve]
Condition Report: Fine condition. Excessively rare.