Archaeology | Capitals | Figured | Figured capital | Artwork profile


H. 33 cm, w. 87 cm, d. 61 cm

II century AD


Figured capital

A Large fragment of a figured capital of which is preserved just an half with curving corner volutes. The figures are chipped. The fragment is dominated by the head of a gorgon (with wings springing above her forehead and snakes tied around her neck) on one side and the personification of Tyche wearing a remnant of a wall crown) on the other. Both heads are carved on high relief and show similar facial features and stylistic flourishes: as the heavy brow that gives the figures a frowning appearance, with the lips slightly release and eyes wide open.

This so-called “pathetic” expression first appeared in representation of the gorgon during the Hellenistic period (323-30 BC), particularly on the Greek East. Its use on the figure of Tyche is a unifying stylistic element.

The two figures are also symbolically unified as the gorgon and Tyche were both emblems of protection. The image of the gorgon was placed on temples, armor and even jewelry as an apotropaion or a fear-inducing device thought to drive away evil.

Tyche, the goddess of good fortune could be called upon by individual devotees for personal favors. However when she wears the mural crown, she represents the personification of the city, ensuring it prosperity and well-being. The figured capitals could have been decorated with figures of real or mythological animals, as well as deities and personifications, on high relief.

The capitals from the Forum of Augustus in Rome are an example of that, where the winged horse Pegasus takes the place of the capital’s curving corner volutes. More commonly, full or bust-length figures were placed on the center axis of the capital, like our exemplar and their heads were resting against the capital’s upper edge, replacing the flowers emerging from the molding.

The production of our capital can be collocated on the eastern-Greek provinces of the Roman Empire like Asia Minor or Palestine, chronologically placed around the middle of the second century AD.