Saturday, 30 June 2018

Collectors' Corner: Bonhams Antiquities 'Doris' Head Flask

Photo: Bonhams
I really cannot imagine who would want to acquire this unlovely portable antiquity (reminiscent of 'Doris' from Shrek II and III). It is being flogged off by Bonhams who offer only one photo (I'd like to see the underside):
They date it to  'circa 3rd-4th Century A.D.', and this is their description...
In the form of a bust of an African, depicted with tiers of short ringlets, the face with lidded eyes with recessed pupils set beneath arched eyebrows, small nose and mouth, and pronounced chin dimple, wearing a collar with crescentic pendant, with short spout and ring handle at the back, remains of black slip overall, 16.2cm high FOOTNOTES Provenance: Jan Willem Salomonson (1925-2017) collection, the Netherlands, acquired prior to 2000; and thence by descent to the present owner.
Lot-Art sale
Which is rather odd, because this here seems to be the same object on sale recently elsewhere... where it seems to have been dated to the 1st century AD.

What is even odder is that fabric, some kind of slipped ware, but which production centre? Rhenish? Nene Valley Ware? Central Gaulish Black Slipped ware? Colchester colour coat? Why do not Bonhams say? Surely they could easily find a Roman pottery specialist to give it  look-over. There are lots of them in England, and even in London. In particular, parallels (if they exist) would be easy to find, as this vessel is mould-made (which Roman colour-coat vessels tended not to be). So why is Bonhams not more precise about what it actually is? Another interesting feature  is the rim. This vessel is a skeumorph of the much more common glass head-flasks (which sometimes also depict African features, though never as caricaturish as here)  but then why does it not have their flaring rim (like this pot)? Why did it need a 'ring handle' (sic) at the back when a flask this size can be handled without and the glass ones do not have them? What was the function of such a vessel, apart from just being ugly? How would you pour from it? Any Roman pot people out there want to give Bonhams a hand and share a few parallels?

Lots of questions left unanswered by the skimpy description. As usual. Caveat emptor, I'd say.

PS Bonhams, the word is 'lunula/lunular'.

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