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image S123

Roman Gnostic figure in the Graeco-Egyptian style

Late 2nd century to 3rd century AD

Grey stone

Height: 17cm

Museum number: S123

Vermeule catalogue number: Vermeule 385help-vermeule-catalogue-number

Curatorial note

A nude figure of a bearded, elderly man with somewhat African features, an elaborate, stylised headdress, and hos lower limbs covered with scales. The reverse bears the following inscription:

ΕΓΕΦΛΟ
ΔΞΑΚΑΙ
ΤΛΗ⁄PO
PTAΣΞ

The character of the inscription and the figure, the headdress and upper parts of which (including the arms against the sides) are echoes of the Egyptian Bes type1, all suggest a later Imperial age, so-called Gnostic image. The figure is the sculptural counterpart of the types known best from the gems which are included in this category.

1 For the Bes figures from which this confused adaptation stems compare A. De Ridder, Coll. De Clerq, III, pl. XXXII, no. 212 and in Egyptian Dynastic art, British Museum objects numbers 12591 (XIX-XXth Dyn.) and 57330 (top of a sceptre-staff, XXVIth Dyn); also the Bes-Harpocrates- Somtous figure in the Musée de Mariemont (Cat., p.44, no. E.104, pl.11).

Provenance help-art-provenance

Purchased by John Soane at the Charles Yarnold Sale (auctioneer Mr. Southgate), 11 July 1825, Lot 144, A singular figure with Grecian inscription on the back £0.14.0.


If you have any further information about this object, please contact us: worksofart@soane.org.uk