Situla with Six Deities

Constantinople, 613-629/630 
Silver 25.8 cm

The situla is worked in repousse with ornamental detailing applied as surface engraving and stippling. The upper border is broken in two places and major damage partially obscures four of the six standing figures. 
Between the figures, at equal intervals, are swags of stylized foliage and fruits represented as hanging from the upper border; small wreaths, in turn, hang from the swags. A laurel wreath bound with ribbon circles the top and bottom of the situla in opposite directions. 
Sufficient remains allow for the identification of the figures as primary deities of the Greco-Roman pantheon. They are grouped in three male-female pairs. Best preserved are the representations of Ares and Aphrodite. Ares is a muscular figure, beardless and nude except for laced boots and cloak; he leans to his right on his spear and holds a lavishly decorated shield in his left hand. Aphrodite turns toward him, proffering an apple. Her costume is distinct, with a long-sleeved, hip-length tunic over a long under-garment; she wears a heavy mantle closed with a brooch and a Phrygian cap. To the right of Aphrodite stands the heavily muscled Heracles, who forms a pair with a damaged figure of Athena; he wears only his lion-skin cloak and leans wearily on his gnarled club. To the left of the figure are three spheres, perhaps to be understood as the apples of the Hesperides. Athena rests her right arm on a pillar; her left hand is on her hip and her right leg is crossed casually before her. A battle-axe can be seen near her right foot. The damage that obscures her figure continues across a cypress tree and across the hunting dog associated with the female of the third pair, Artemis and Apollo. Only the upper torso of Artemis remains, but her hunting costume and spear are preserved. Apollo rests against a pillar with his left foot on a low pedestal and extends a laurel branch over a tripod to his right. A swan is depicted at the base of the pillar. 
The detailed treatment of the attributes and the postural types of the figures indicate a measure of fidelity to classical models, possibly to specific statuary types. The suggestion that the Heracles Farnese, for example, might have been the ultimate model for the Heracles illustrates the point. The heavy use of outline, however, combined with the decreased plasticity of both the bodies and the draperies, indicates a late date. Five imperial control stamps on the base of the pail confirm that it was made in the early years of the reign of the emperor Heraclius. 
It was found on the borders of the empire, possibly on a trade route, in Kuczurmare, Bucovina, Soviet Union. 

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The Byzantine Legacy
Created by David Hendrix Copyright 2016