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Luxury at Home

Ivory objects rarely survive from the Roman world, in large part because of the material’s fragility and sensitivity to humidity. Elephant ivory, imported from Africa or Asia, was especially prized, and reserved only for the most valuable depictions of deities. Bone, more easily procured, was used to decorate chests and other furniture. Whether in ivory or bone, these fine objects can be imagined as a part of a luxury domestic setting.

 

Exhibit Items

Statuette of Mars

Late Roman, late 4th–5th century; ivory; 8.8 × 4.7 × 1.6 cm (3 7/16 × 1 7/8 × 5/8 in.). BZ.1938.63

Case with Hygieia

Early Byzantine, 6th century; ivory; 7.5 × 6 × 2.5 (2 15/16 × 2 3/8 × 1 in.). BZ.1948.15

Cult Scene

Roman, 2nd century; ivory; 20.3 × 11.5 × 1.1 cm (8 × 4 1/2 × 7/16 in.). BZ.1942.1

Incised Plaque with Hermaphrodite and Leopard

Late Roman, 4th century; bone; 7.9 × 5.6 cm (3 1/8 × 2 3/16 in.). BZ.1945.5

Knife Handle with Dionysos

Late Roman, 4th century; bone, bronze, iron; 9.5 × 4.5 cm (3 3/4 × 1 3/4 in.). BZ.1969.11