Roman Bronze Chariot-Fitting in the form of Mercury
2nd - 3rd century AD; height cm 23 with support; These kind of bronze ornaments once decorated a Roman chariot. Rather than adorning a lightweight racing vehicles, the heavy and ornate nature of these accessories, suggests they were originally attached to a more substantial vehicle such as a pilentum (used to transport aristocrats on state occasions), a carruca (for transporting emperors and aristocratic matrons) or even a thensa (a ceremonial chariot used to transport deities to the imperial games). More utilitarian vehicles such as the arcera would not have been so richly decorated.These fittings would have been the finishing touches to a vehicle already resplendent with the most luxurious and expensive materials and accessories available. Contemporary sources describe ornate inlay, rare woods and metalwork incorporated into these vehicles, and it is probable that these heads would originally have been gilded to add highlights to the ensemble. The horses would have been similarly magnificent and groomed for the occasion, their tack carefully manufactured and polished in order to burnish the full impact of the whole. Provenance: Private collection, acquired on the German art market in 1990s.