- Identification and Creation
- Object Number
- Intarsia Panel
- Other Titles
- Alternate Title: Intarsia Furniture Panel
- Work Type
- second half 1st century BCE-first half 1st century CE
- Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World, Europe
- Roman Republican period, Late, to Early Imperial
- Persistent Link
- Physical Descriptions
- Leaded bronze, silver and copper inlays
- Cast, lost-wax process
- 3.7 x 24.3 cm (1 7/16 x 9 9/16 in.)
- Technical Details
Chemical Composition: ICP-MS/AAA data from sample, Leaded Bronze:
Cu, 82.81; Sn, 7.87; Pb, 8.9; Zn, 0.161; Fe, 0.13; Ni, 0.02; Ag, 0.06; Sb, 0.05; As, less than 0.10; Bi, less than 0.025; Co, less than 0.005; Au, less than 0.01; Cd, less than 0.001
Chemical Composition: Plaque
XRF data from Artax 1
Alloy: Leaded Bronze
Alloying Elements: copper, tin, lead
Other Elements: iron, silver
Comments: The object has inlays of silver and copper.
XRF data from Artax 1
Alloying Elements: silver, copper
Other Elements: gold, lead
XRF data from Artax 1
Alloying Elements: copper
Other Elements: tin, lead, iron, silver, arsenic
K. Eremin, January 2014
Technical Observations: The patina of the panels is green. In the case of 1992.321, the patina is dark green. Raised corrosion products and burial accretions are present at areas of the back surfaces. Inlay metal is red.
The surfaces are in very good condition, although the small areas of inlay are lost. Slight planar distortions are present in all of the panels. The brittle fractures at one end of each piece appear old, probably dating prior to burial.
Section 1992.317 is unfinished at the edges, where the others have leaf patterns. This panel shows how the general contours of the leaf decorations were incised directly in the wax model prior to casting the bronze. After casting, a small punch was used to mark off even intervals related to the elements of the leaf patterns. The leaf elements were then punched into the metal with both flat and elongated punch tools (see detail images for 1992.316 and 1992.320). The copper alloy inlay, which presumably was different in color, was hammered into incised lines cut with a small straight chisel. The back surfaces of each panel have coarse diagonal scrape marks related to cleaning and smoothing the surfaces after casting. A 6-mm width down one long and one short edge at the back of each panel was scraped further, obscuring the coarse diagonal marks. Green and gray corrosion products along these edges appear to be a form of solder, presumably lead based, which may have assisted in securing the panels.
Four of the panels, 1992.317, 1992.318, 1992.319, and 1992.321, were examined to see if there are any joins at the breaks. None of these fragments join to one another.
Henry Lie (submitted 2002)
- [Sotheby’s, New York, June 25, 1992, lot 329], sold; to Harvard University Art Museums, 1992.
- Acquisition and Rights
- Credit Line
- Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, David M. Robinson Fund
- Accession Year
- Object Number
- Asian and Mediterranean Art
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Published Catalogue Text: Ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern Bronzes at the Harvard Art Museums
A molded frame decorates the top and bottom of this rectangular intarsia panel, while the field in the middle bears inlaid decoration of grape vines, clusters, and leaves. There are breaks at both short ends, but the edges of the long sides are preserved. One side of the molded frame is egg-and-dart, done in higher relief than the rest of the panel. On the other side, the molding is lesbian cymatium with a raised bevel on the exterior edge. The inlaid decoration on the middle section of the panel is currently dark brown in color. It consists of thick wavy vines, with thinner voluted tendrils, and broad grape leaves. The grape clusters are rendered schematically by dots in a triangular shape. Some areas of the inlay have been lost, particularly from the leaves, one grape, and one volute. Just before the broken end, the vine terminates with looped tendrils or fillets wrapped around it: if this only occurs at the ends of the panels, as on 1992.320, then this might indicate that this section is near the end panel, broken along the short portion of the frame. This panel may be from the same piece of furniture as 1992.320.
These fragmentary panels would have been placed in a decorative band around the sides of a Roman couch (kline) or table. Based on similarities in decoration and method of manufacture, they may all have been created in a single workshop or by one craftsman. The molded frames are the same on five of the six objects, while the sixth is unfinished.
A first-century CE panel very similar to two of Harvard’s panels (1992.316 and 1992.320) was among the large hoard of bronzes found in the excavations of the Basilica of Bavay, France, in 1969 (1). The burial of the hoard is dated to the fourth century CE, but the makeup of the hoard (statuettes, instrumenta, and scraps) as well as the presence of earlier items, such as the Bavay furniture panel and a Hellenistic Eros, indicates that the items were assembled from many sources and were perhaps going to be melted down (2).
The decoration of grape vines, leaves, and clusters, alluding to wine, are seen on two of the panels (1992.316 and 1992.320) and would have been appropriate decoration for Roman couches, which often bore images of Dionysus and his entourage (3). The couches were used for dining or sleeping, a motif often referenced in Dionysiac imagery.
1. S. Boucher and H. Oggiano-Bitar, Le trésor des bronzes de Bavay, Revue du Nord 3 (Lille, 1993) 67, no. 27 (inv. no. 69 Br 27). Similar panels are also in the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto; see J. W. Hayes, Greek, Roman, and Related Metalware in the Royal Ontario Museum: A Catalogue (Toronto, 1984) 175-79, nos. 287-96. Other examples and color reconstructions can be seen in L. Pirzio Biroli Stefanelli, ed., Il bronzo dei Romani: Arredo e suppellettile (Rome, 1990) 262-65, nos. 26 and 29-36, figs. 119-44, 245, and 247.
2. Boucher and Oggiano-Bitar 1993 (supra 1) 12-13
3. Compare 1987.130, a fulcrum attachment for a couch.
Lisa M. Anderson
- Publication History
Katherine Eremin and Josef Riederer, "Analytical Approaches to Ancient Bronzes", Ancient Bronzes through a Modern Lens: Introductory Essays on the Study of Ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern Bronzes, ed. Susanne Ebbinghaus, Harvard Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 2014), 64-91, pp. 82-83, fig. 3.9.a-b.
Susanne Ebbinghaus, ed., Ancient Bronzes through a Modern Lens: Introductory Essays on the Study of Ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern Bronzes, Harvard Art Museum/Yale University Press (Cambridge, MA, 2014), pp. 60, 82-83, 95-96, fig. 3.9a-b
- Exhibition History
Roman Gallery Installation (long-term), Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 09/16/1999 - 01/20/2008
Beyond the Surface: Scientific Approaches to Islamic Metalwork, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 10/21/2011 - 06/01/2013
- Subjects and Contexts
- Related Works
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