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Identification and Creation
Object Number
Trefoil Oinochoe with Stamp
Work Type
mid 1st-early 2nd century CE
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World, Europe
Roman Imperial period
Persistent Link
Physical Descriptions
14.1 x 12.5 cm (5 9/16 x 4 15/16 in.)
Technical Details

Chemical Composition: ICP-MS/AAA data from sample, Bronze:
Cu, 91.08; Sn, 8.39; Pb, less than 0.025; Zn, 0.002; Fe, 0.13; Ni, 0.01; Ag, 0.05; Sb, 0.33; As, less than 0.10; Bi, less than 0.025; Co, less than 0.005; Au, less than 0.01; Cd, less than 0.001
J. Riederer

Chemical Composition: XRF data from Artax 1
Alloy: Bronze
Alloying Elements: copper, tin
Other Elements: lead, iron
K. Eremin, January 2014

Technical Observations: The patina is dark green, with preserved bare metal visible in some areas. Spots of blue and underlying red are also present. The handle is lost, but a residue of what appears to be mineralized lead is present at the shoulder and probably the rim, indicating that lead was used to attach a handle to the vessel. Most of the surface is very well preserved, although it bears hundreds of small corrosion pits. There are several shallow dents in the middle section and several small holes (less than 1 cm) on one side that are the result of corrosion of this thin area. A 10-cm area of corrosion products on one side that is darker and bluer than the rest is probably the result of increased moisture there during burial.

The vessel was raised and formed by hammering and other cold work. The process would have involved numerous annealings. The circular lines on the bottom of the vessel show an extreme perfection under magnification. They must have been made by cutting, perhaps using abrading and burnishing tools while rotating the vessel on a wheel. Long fine scratch lines perfectly aligned with the groove shapes could have been made only through such a turning process. A stamp with seven Latin characters measuring 15 x 2.5 mm is located near the rim in the middle of the area where the handle would have attached.

Henry Lie (submitted 2012)

Inscriptions and Marks
  • inscription: in Latin, stamped:
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Gift of Dr. Jerome M. Eisenberg and Sol Rabin
Accession Year
Object Number
Asian and Mediterranean Art
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Published Catalogue Text: Ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern Bronzes at the Harvard Art Museums
The body of this trefoil oinochoe (wine pitcher with three mouths) is bulbous at the shoulder and tapers to the circular foot. The cylindrical neck flares out at the trefoil mouth, which has a thick edge (1). The juncture of the shoulder and neck is decorated with three incised concentric circles, and the underside of the foot bears raised concentric circles. On the interior of the back of the mouth, on the side where the handle would have attached, a maker’s mark has been stamped into the metal. The mark, a recessed arc with raised letters, seems to read COMMVNI or COMMVNE: (workshop) of Communis (2).


1. The vessel shape is relatively common; for examples with attached handles, see A. de Ridder, Les bronzes antiques du Louvre 2: Les instruments (Paris, 1915) 114, no. 2754, pl. 99; M. Comstock and C. C. Vermeule, Greek, Etruscan and Roman Bronzes in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (Greenwich, CT, 1971) 313, no. 438; and J. Gorecki, “Metallgefässe und -objecte aus der Villa des N. Popidius Florus (Boscoreale) im J. Paul Getty Museum, Malibu, Kalifornien,” in Bronces y religion romana: Actas del XI congreso internacional de bronces antiguos, Madrid, 1990, eds. J. Arce and F. Burkhalter (Madrid, 1993) 229-46, esp. 232, no. A 10, pl. 4. Compare also L. Pirzio Biroli Stefanelli, ed., Il bronzo dei Romani: Arredo e suppellettile (Rome, 1990) 237 and 281, no. 110, fig. 222 (from Herculaneum); B. Borell, Statuetten, Gefässe und andere Gegenstände aus Metall, Katalog der Sammlung antiker Kleinkunst des Archäologischen Instituts der Universität Heidelberg 3.1 (Mainz, 1989) 116-17, no. 126, pl. 49; M. Garsson, ed., Une histoire d’alliage: Les bronzes antiques des réserves du Musée d’Archéologie Méditerranéenne, exh. cat. (Marseille, 2004) 44, no. 73; and S. Tassinari, Il vasellame bronzo di Pompei, Ministero per i beni culturali ed ambientali, Soprintendenza archeologica di Pompei 5 (Rome, 1993) 40-42, type D2300, pl. 157.5.

2. For a patera handle with the same stamp as the Harvard vessel, see A. Koster, The Bronze Vessels 2: Acquisitions 1954-1996, Collections in the Provincial Museum G. M. Kam at Nijmegen 13 (Gelderland, 1997) 59, no. 69. Koster indicates that the stamp is from a Gaulish workshop dated from the second half of the first century to the first quarter of the second century CE.

Lisa M. Anderson

Publication History

Anna-Maria Cannatella, Within the Atrium: A Context for Roman Daily Life, exh. cat., J. S. McCarthy Printers (Augusta, ME, 1997), no. 27.

Exhibition History

Within the Atrium: A Context for Roman Daily Life, Bowdoin College Museum of Art, Brunswick, 04/01/1997 - 06/08/1997

Subjects and Contexts

Ancient Bronzes

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of Asian and Mediterranean Art at