UNRECOGNIZED in its importance for the gay community as well as historical Roman culture, this is a contemporary funerary portrait balsamarium of the young Greek lover of the Roman Emperor Hadrian, whose grief at the passing of the youngster by drowning in the River Nile during a religious ritual was so great that Hadrian decreed that Antinous was to be Deified and worshiped by the people of the Roman Empire, and so he was.
The ancient city of Antinopolis was built on the site of his untimely death. He was proclaimed a god, and temples were built, mostly outside Rome, for his worship.
He was so popular among the people, that many thousands of busts were made of his young and pretty face; he was the only non-emperor whose visage appeared on official Roman coinage.
The Cult of Antoninous was fought against with savage power by the early Catholic (which means "Pure") Church, because it encouraged worship of a person, and was a celebration of homosexual love, forbidden by, but also commonly practiced by, the Church Fathers.
A temple of Antoninous was discovered during excavations in 1998 at Hadrian's Villa. Portrait busts of Antoninous exist today at the Vatican, the Louvre and the Berlin Museum, Athens Museum, Fitzwilliam Museum and the Prado. This bust is absolutely museum-grade and rightfully should form part of a public collection, indicating that at the owner's passing, the bust should be endowed to a receiving museum.
I first saw this bust in the possession of my friend Jerry Eisenberg of the world-famous Royal Athena Gallery. It is perhaps the most important antiquity to hit the market in the past several decades, and its importance is not yet recognized by the collecting world.
A balsamarium contained scented oils and perfumes associated with a burial. If the features of the face do not immediately recall Antinous, the abundant hair falling in generous locks deep on the neck points towards an undeniable intention to represent him, and allows accurate dating. The silver inlaid eyes and the drilled pupils add to the vivacity of the portrait. This style of bronze balsamarium must have been fairly common in the period after the death of Antinous, as several are known. For similar pieces along with photos of this piece you can visit http://www.antinoos.info/antin9a.htm
Roman bronze balsamarium, height 10.5 cm, deep beautiful green patina, a very attractive bronze bust with flowing curls, drilled pupils and inlaid eyes, functional hinged top, minor ancient burial damage at base, one suspension loop missing; FROM THE ROYAL ATHENA GALLERIES, formerly owned by Jerry Eisenberg!
The profit from this sale to be used for the benefit of IDHHB, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization; I therefore have no hesitation in setting the price of this magnificent ancient artifact of UNCRECOGNIZED HISTORICAL IMPORTANCE at a whalloping