The J. Paul Getty Museum

Thymiaterion in the Form of a Comic Actor Seated on an Altar and a Separate Theatrical Wig

Object Details

Title:

Thymiaterion in the Form of a Comic Actor Seated on an Altar and a Separate Theatrical Wig

Artist/Maker:

Unknown

Culture:

Roman

Date:

first half of 1st century A.D.

Medium:

Bronze with silver inlay

Object Number:

87.AC.143

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Object Description

An actor sitting upon an altar decorated with erotes and garlands forms the body of this thymiaterion or incense burner. He wears the typical costume and mask of a Greek New Comedy slave, with its rolled hairstyle, snub nose, and wide open mouth. The figure's eyes are inlaid with silver and his left hand is pierced to hold a detachable object, probably a wig. Depictions of actors sitting on altars are found in both Hellenistic and Roman art, and some scholars have suggested that these may allude to a specific scene in an unidentified play.

The top of the altar pivots open to allow incense to be put inside, and the bottom has air holes to facilitate the burning. The smoke from the incense would have risen through the actor's hollow body and issued from his mouth.

Provenance
Provenance
- 1987

Robin Symes, Limited, Founded 1977, dissolved 2005 (London, England), sold to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1987.

Exhibitions
Exhibitions
The Art of Ancient Greek Theater (August 26, 2010 to January 3, 2011)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Villa (Malibu), August 26, 2010 to January 3, 2011
Bibliography
Bibliography

"Acquisitions/1987." The J. Paul Getty Museum Journal 16 (1988), .1 is published; see ext.

Kozloff, Arielle P., and David Gordon Mitten, eds. The Gods Delight. The Human Figure in Classical Bronze. Exh. cat. The Cleveland Museum of Art, November 16, 1988-January 8, 1989; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, February 9-April 9, 1989; The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, May 9-July 9, 1989, .1 is published; see ext.

The J. Paul Getty Museum Handbook of the Collections. 3rd ed. (Malibu: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1991), .1 is published; see ext.

Oliver, Andrew. "An Incense Burner in the Form of an Actor as a Slave on an Altar," Bronces y Religion Romana. Actas del XI Congresso Internacional de Bronces Antiguos. Madrid, Mayo-Juno 1990. J. Arce and F. Burkhalter, editors. Madrid: 1993. Pp. 331-336, .1 is published; see ext.

Purcell, Nicholas. "Does Caesar Mime?" The Art of Ancient Spectacle. Center for Advanced Study, Symposium Papers 34. Washington, D.C.: 1995. pp. 181-193, .1 is published; see ext.

The J. Paul Getty Museum Handbook of the Collections. 4th ed. (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1997), .1 is published; see ext.

Towne Markus, Elana. Masterpieces of the J. Paul Getty Museum: Antiquities. (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1997), .1 is published; see ext.

The J. Paul Getty Museum Handbook of the Collections. 6th ed. (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2001), p. 36.

Scott, David A. Copper and Bronze in Art: Corrosion, Colorants, Conservation (Los Angeles: Getty Conservation Institute, 2002), p. 95, pl. 17.

The J. Paul Getty Museum Handbook of the Collections. 7th ed. (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2007), p. 20, ill.

Schwarzmaier, Agnes. "Theater." In Handwörterbuch der antiken Sklaverei. Johannes Deissler, ed. (Stuttgart: Franz Steiner, 2008), ill.

Moore, Tim. Roman Theatre/Cambridge Greece and Rome: Texts and Contexts (Cambridge University Press, 2012), Release date slated for May 2012; more information forthcoming.

Mattusch, Carol C. Enduring Bronze: Ancient Art, Modern Views (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2014), pp. 48-49, fig. 26.

Sotheby's, London. Ancient Sculpture & Works of Art. December 3, 2019, p. 20.