Roman amazonomachy relief

December 20, 2021


As we launch ourselves into the last few days before Christmas, there may be sudden moments of tenseness between couples, and husbands and wives, perhaps caused by the trials of shopping for presents, or who was supposed to have put the turkey in the oven at 6.30am...and didn't...

Whatever mishaps occur one can only hope they don't end in the same way as the scene depicted here.


Purchased by the Rijksmuseum van Oudheden at TEFAF Maastricht in 2019

Roman amazonomachy relief, c.225-250 AD
Height 87cm, width 86cm, depth 16cm

Sizeable relief fragment showing a scene from the Amazonomachy: a fight between Greek warriors and the Amazons. On the left a bare-chested warrior lunges forward, his round shield lifted with his left arm, a crested Attic helmet upon his head. A rearing horse, its right leg lashing out violently at the warrior, is being ridden by an Amazon who grasps the reins, wearing calf-length boots and short chiton which flutters in the wind.

The Amazons were a nation of all-female warriors. Greek mythology tells of several battles between the ‘barbaric’ Amazons and the ‘civilised’ Greek men. The Amazon represented a divergence from normal social structure, posing a threat to the status quo. It is therefore not unnatural that their image came to represent all enemies of the state, and indeed that they embodied the very essence of barbarism and an unnatural way of being. Depictions of an Amazonian defeat embodies not so much a victory over womankind, as much as the conquering of the barbaric world by that of the civilised, and often directly refers to Western defeat of the East, such as Greece or Rome against the Persians.

Ugo Jandolo, Rome, Italy
Joseph Brummer (1883-1947), New York, USA; acquired from the above on 19th November 1936, inventory no.P13151, archived as "Found in the Sea, at Piraeus, in the beginning of the 19th Century"
The Cranbrook Academy of Art, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, USA; acquired from the above on 2nd June 1938 Private collection, Japan

Sotheby Parke-Bernet, New York, USA; The Cranbrook Collections, 2nd-5th May 1972, lot 337

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