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HOME : Classical Antiquities : Roman Art : North African Terra Sigillata Flask
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North African Terra Sigillata Flask - X.0053
Origin: North Africa
Circa: 3 rd Century AD
Dimensions: 5.5" (14.0cm) high
Collection: Classical
Medium: Terra Sigillata

Location: UAE
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Terra sigillata wares were the classic fine wares of the Roman period. The roots of the industry go back to Italy during the 1st Century B.C. Building on the foundations of a pre-existing industry dedicated to black-slipped ware, the glossy red-slipped terra sigillata wares were first produced at Arezzo, in northern Tuscany. The industry expanded, and factories producing Italian-type sigillata were founded across the Mediterranean world, notably southern France and northern Spain. By the 3rd-4th Century A.D., the center of terra sigillata production had shifted south, to the shores of Roman North Africa. From the great port of Carthage, these wares were exported throughout the Mediterranean world and representative examples have been found from Israel to England.

Characterized by a red-orange to red-brown clay and a slip of a more refined version of the same clay, these glossy household vessels were decorated by relief figures and stamped designs. Frequently, separately applied clay figures were cast in molds and added to the vessels as decoration. This vessel is a fine example of the very wares that were produced in North Africa. Immediately obvious is the glossy red slip that made these wares extremely durable and gave them their name. This particular work features two handles and a small round foot. The body has been divided into two sections framed by four applied palm leaves. Each section is decorated by a molded figures of a boxer and a dancer. Hundreds of years ago, this vessel was created in Roman North Africa, shipped out of Carthage, and landed on the table of a household somewhere across the vast empire. The history of this work is truly fascinating and is surmounted only by its beauty. - (X.0053)


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