Tigers appear relatively rarely in Roman art, making this piece particularly special. When they did appear, it was nearly always the female tigress that was depicted. During Roman times, tigers could be found as far west as Armenia and around the Caspian Sea, but they also may have been known to the Roman Empire thanks to trading posts along the coasts of India. The Roman god of wine, Bacchus, was sometimes associated with tigers and depicted riding on their backs in processions. Exotic and wild animals were associated with the wild and uncontrolled nature of this god. There is also evidence that tigers were occasionally used in Roman gladiatorial combats.
Roman Silver Tiger Appliqué
A very fine Roman silver appliqué in the form a tiger’s head. The tiger is shown frontally, teeth bared and round eyes gazing ahead. Fine detailing rendering the tiger’s fur, whiskers, and teeth is still intact. Its ears point straight up as though alert. It is in excellent condition aside from minor wear on the animal’s snout. The reverse of the piece is unworked and slightly curved, suggesting its original use as an appliqué. A small modern attachment at the base of the tiger’s chin was applied by a previous owner.
Provenance: From the late Alison Barker Collection, a retired London barrister, formed early 1960s – 1990s.
Condition: Very fine; minor oxidation; minor wear on snout.