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Lot 1566: Roman Cavalry Sports Helmet Mask

Antiquities: Day 3

by TimeLine Auctions

December 8, 2016

London, United Kingdom

Live Auction
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Description: 2nd-3rd century AD. A sheet bronze face-plate from a cavalry sports helmet (Russel-Robinson Type E) with repouss? detailing to the hair and coif, brow-band of square panels with ovoid centres, raised herringbone eyebrows and eyelashes; openwork eyes each with central ring, pierced nostrils and mouth; hole to each side of the chin. Cf. mask from the Straubing Hoard in Travis, H. & J. Roman Helmets, Stroud, 2014, fig.89. See Garbsch, J. Romische Paraderustungen: Katalog der Ausstellung, Munich, 1978, pl. 24.4 for a similar example from Visegrad, Hungary. Accompanied by an Art Loss Register certificate. 358 grams, 30cm (11 3/4"). Property of a Suffolk gentleman; acquired before 2000. Accompanied by a copy of positive metallurgic analytical results, written by Metallurgist Dr. Peter Northover (ex Department of Materials, Materials Science-Based Archaeology Group & Department of Materials, University of Oxford"). The face-plate resembles a mask from the Straubing Hoard. The features have an 'Eastern' appearance enhanced by the construction of the eye-rings. 'Cavalry Sports' helmets are a class of ornate, embossed headgear used in parades, military exercises and on the battlefield. According to Arrian of Nicomedia, a Roman provincial governor and a close friend of Hadrian, face mask helmets were used in cavalry parades and sporting mock battles called hippika gymnasia. Parades or tournaments played an important part in maintaining unit morale and fighting effectiveness. They took place on a parade ground situated outside a fort and involved the cavalry practicing maneuvering and the handling of weapons such as javelins and spears. Parades would have taken place at several times in the year, especially at religious festivals and on days marking the birth, and accession to the throne, of the Emperor. Hippika gymnasia were colourful tournaments among the elite cavalry of the army, the alae. Both men and horses wore elaborate suites of equipment on these occasions, often in the guise of Greeks and Amazons. Calvary helmets were made from a variety of metals and alloys, often from gold-coloured alloys or iron covered with tin. They were decorated with embossed reliefs and engravings depicting the war god Mars and other divine and semi-divine figures associated with the military.

Condition Report: Very fine condition, restored.

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