by 1986 - 1987
The Merrin Gallery (New York, New York), sold to Barbara and Lawrence Fleischman, 1987.
Grave Relief of a Silversmith
Roman Empire (Place Created)
first quarter of 1st century A.D.
79.9 × 58.5 × 31.7 cm (31 7/16 × 23 1/16 × 12 1/2 in.)
"Publius Curtilius Agatho, freedman of Publius, and silversmith" reads the inscription on this Roman funerary relief. Portraits such as this one were placed in the facades of family tombs lining the roads out of Rome, advertising the social and professional status of the deceased to all who passed by. The portrait's format and style are typical of the funerary reliefs commissioned by freed slaves. Beginning in the 100s B.C., slaves were brought to Rome in large numbers. Publius Curtilius Agatho took his first names from his Roman master, but his last is Greek, meaning "good". Like many slaves he was a skilled professional and he appears here in his role as a silversmith, making a small cup. Portraits of freed slaves in this period often show a combination of styles. The face of Publius Curtilius Agatho, with hollow cheeks, furrowed brow, and deep naso-labial folds, harks back to a "warts and all" style of portraiture favored by nobles in the Roman Republic. The hair, however, is an up-to-date Augustan court style. In portraits like this one, freed slaves used an aristocratic but old-fashioned visual vocabulary to express their new status as Romans.
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