late 2nd Century BC
Bronze with copper inlays
Overall: 22.4 x 24.5 x 7.8 cm (8 13/16 x 9 5/8 x 3 1/16 in.)
Leonard C. Hanna, Jr. Fund 1985.184
Mythological sea creatures became popular metal vessel decorations around the 2nd-century BCE.
The seaweed garment, finned gills, and webbed ears give this female bust appliqué all the hallmarks of an ocean dweller. She may be a Tritoness, a minor goddess of the sea and the female counterpart to the more common Triton. However, her intense gaze and raised arm clutching perhaps the hilt of a sword suggest she may be Scylla, a sea monster that first appears in Homer’s Odyssey. Without the Tritoness’s fishtail or Scylla’s lower body made of dogs’ heads, it is difficult to differentiate. Certain features are highlighted with a copper inlay such as the lips, eyes, and gills.
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