Classical Antiquities :
Roman Art : Roman Lead Erotic Plate
Roman Lead Erotic Plate - CK.0003
4" (10.2cm) high
x 4" (10.2cm) wide
Location: United States
| Photo Gallery
The rediscovery and subsequent excavations of
Pompeii and Herculaneum in the 18th century
provided many fascinating insights into daily life
during the height of the Roman Empire,
including the near ubiquity of erotic or sexually
themed art and imagery in frescos, inscriptions,
and household goods found throughout the
cities. While our modern mores may lump all of
this imagery together under the banner of
pornography, to the Ancient Romans some of
this work may have served a fertility function,
while other was clearly meant to be for pure
erotic pleasure. Among the most famous
imagery are the frescos found decorating the
walls of a brothels, perhaps representing a
selection of services offered at the
establishment, perhaps merely setting the mood.
Beyond the scope of these two cities, the canon
of Roman art is filled with eroticism, from
marble sculptures to small bronze amulets.
Among the most prevalent are examples are
terracotta oil lamps decorated with molded
scenes of copulating couples in a variety of
positions and practices.
This small lead dish depicts a heterosexual
couple engaged in sexual intercourse. They are
shown lying upon a couch-like bed, known as a
lectus, with the man on top, lifting on of the
woman’s legs up in the air as she wraps her arm
around his head, pulling him towards her.
Underneath the lectus is a bowl and amphora.
Rendered in low relief, this scene is consistent
with those found on molded erotic oil lamps.
But whereas the imagery of the oil lamp would
have been immediately obvious, the scene found
here may have been hidden beneath food such
as nuts or olives, awaiting the viewers surprise
and delights as they “unveiled” the piece.