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Pair of bronze headrest supports (fulcra) from a couch

 

Length: 49.000 cm

Hamilton Collection

GR 1784.1-31.4 (Bronze 2561)

Greece and Rome

    Pair of bronze headrest supports (fulcra) from a couch

    Roman, about AD 20-60
    Said to be from Campania, Italy

    Decorated with mule's heads and satyrs

    These bronze attachments would originally have decorated the sides of the headrest of a Roman couch or lectus. The upper part of each headrest support (fulcrum) is decorated with the lively head of a mule, facing outwards, while the lower parts feature the busts of satyrs. The eyes of the mules and satyrs are inlaid with silver and copper, and the same metals are used to form the fronds of leaves and berries, surrounded by a wave design, which decorate the main area of the headrest. On more elaborate couches, not only the fulcra were of metal, but also the legs and the side panels. In some cases these were not of bronze, but of silver or ivory.

    The lectus was inspired by Greek couches from the eastern Mediterranean, and became the most popular type of couch for dining and sleeping in the Roman world in the first two centuries AD. An arrangement of three such couches would often be found in the triclinium (dining room) of wealthier Romans. Juvenal, a Roman writer of the early second century AD, describes ornately decorated couches with headdress decorated with mule's head terminals very similar to these.

    S. Walker, Roman art (London, 1991)

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