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Gold-glass medallion

 

Diameter: 60.400 mm

M&ME 1898,7-19,1

Prehistory and Europe

    Gold-glass medallion

    Late Roman / Early Christian, 4th century AD
    Probably from the catacombs in Rome

    A married couple with Christ

    This gold-glass 'medallion' bears the busts of a man and woman are encircled by a plain border and inscription. The beardless man has short curly hair and wears a toga contabulata. The stripe on his right shoulder is a symbol of rank. The woman's hairstyle was favoured by empresses in the fourth century: it is drawn back in plaits and coiled on the top of her head, leaving a row of curls across her forehead. Her robe has been engraved with spirals to suggest a rich fabric. She wears earrings and a pearl and gem necklace. Between the two figures a youthful man dressed in a cloak and tunic holds wreaths over their heads.

    The inscription reads: DULCIS ANIMA VIVAS ('Sweetheart, may you live [long]'). The medallion would have originally decorated the base of bowl made as a wedding present.

    We know that the small figure represents Christ as similar images on other bowls are actually inscribed with His name. The man and woman, then, although they are clearly as aristocratic as the couple on the gold-glass medallion showing Herakles also in The British Museum, were Christians rather than pagans. In the Late Antique period, old and new religions were often practised side by side.

    D. Buckton (ed.), Byzantium: treasures of Byzant (London, The British Museum Press, 1994)

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