Small terracotta vessels, such as this fine example, would have been used in Roman times to store balsams, ointments and oils, considered precious at the time and often used both in private life and public ceremonies. Such containers would have been modelled in clay or finely blown in glass, taking many different shapes. Doves were favourite animals in Roman culture, not only because their flight would have been observed and interpreted for positive omens, but also because of their association with the Roman goddess of love Venus. Doves were indeed animals sacred to the goddess, and often appear on pieces of jewellery, paintings and mosaics.
Ancient Roman Perfume Vessel in the Shape of a Dove
An extremely fine Ancient Roman bright red terracotta perfume vessel, modelled in the shape of a dove. The bird is rendered in an extremely naturalistic manner, with anatomical features, such as the wings and feathers, emphasised by a delicate incised motif. From the bird’s body, a cylindrical, thin neck extends, leading to a ribbed rim. A single applied pierced handle connects the neck to the vessel’s body. The red terracotta, from which such vessel has been modelled, indicates that the vessel might have been produced in the Nabataean region, as red terracotta is a characteristic of Nabataean pottery, caused by the high level of iron in the clay used.
Condition: Fine, with some earthly deposits to the surface. Repaired.