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A flat object with a woman's head, a lounging figure, and a horse’s head.

Within an angled shape, several depictions are combined. The top terminates in a depiction of a horse which is realistic and faces right, bending toward the viewer slightly. Below the horse’s head, where its body would be, there is a sunken area in which a lounging figure is shown, partially covered in drapery and resting their head on their arms. Next to and slightly below this figure, within a separate circle, a head and shoulders emerge and look to the right toward the lounging figure. They have curling hair in an elaborate style and wear robes.

Identification and Creation

Object Number
Fulcrum (Couch Attachment) with Bust of a Maenad and Sleeping Ariadne
Work Type
2nd century BCE-first half 1st century CE
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World, Europe
Roman Republican period, Late, to Early Imperial
Persistent Link


Level 3, Room 3700, Ancient Mediterranean and Middle Eastern Art, Roman Art
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Physical Descriptions

Cast, lost-wax process
18.4 x 22 x 5.6 cm (7 1/4 x 8 11/16 x 2 3/16 in.)
Technical Details

Chemical Composition: ICP-MS/AAA data from sample, Bronze:
Cu, 88.19; Sn, 10.7; Pb, 0.97; Zn, 0.008; Fe, 0.04; Ni, 0.05; Ag, 0.05; Sb, less than 0.05; As, less than 0.10; Bi, less than 0.025; Co, less than 0.01; Au, less than 0.01; Cd, less than 0.001
J. Riederer

Technical Observations: The fulcrum was cast in one piece by the lost-wax process, possibly from a mold, and all elements are hollow. The side walls of the fulcrum are of relatively even thickness, which suggests that they would have been applied as sheets of wax, perhaps directly over a preformed core. The inner surface reveals that the background of most of the fulcrum was also flat initially and that additional elements were added to this. The contours of the inner surface do not strictly conform to those of the outer surface, suggesting that many of the decorative elements were modeled directly onto the basic shape in the wax. The additional stepped decorative bands would have been added over the background. The distinct lip between the horse’s neck and the background suggests that the horse element was produced separately in wax and added to the wax fulcrum model.

The modeling and finishing was delicate and detailed. The horse’s individual teeth are delineated. Striations from finishing the piece after casting are visible in the outer grooves. The surface of the piece has, however, been altered overall by corrosion postules, perhaps malachite, some of which were removed during post-excavation cleaning, revealing pits of mineralized metal that are mostly cuprite. Due to the condition of the surface, it is impossible to detect tool marks and to make out some of the finer details, such as the nature of the decoration on the rim of the medallion or the object below the reclining figure. There are some losses due to corrosion, such as the tip of the horse’s proper left ear, the noses of both the female figures, and part of the back edge of the lower wall.

The overall patina is reddish brown with spots and postules of green. The tan material on the surface is a combination of burial material and wax; the surface must have been waxed during restoration. Traces of gold can be found in many areas of the outer surface, including on the figures and the background elements, which is evidence that the entire fulcrum would have been gilded. The inner surface preserves grayish-white and reddish-brown remains of core material. The horse’s head is filled with the terracotta-colored clay.

At least three nails were used to attach the fulcrum to the sofa. The rusty lumps of two iron nails can be found near the inner rim of the wall behind the reclining figure and in the wall behind the horse’s mane. Traces of a third nail can be found in the wall above the medallion with the bust. No organic remains or pseudomorphs from the couch to which this fulcrum attachment originally belonged are preserved on the fulcrum.

Tracy Richardson and Francesca G. Bewer (submitted 1999, updated 2011)


Recorded Ownership History
Collection in Aachen, Germany. [McAlpine Ancient Art, 60 Brook Street, Mayfair, London, November 1987], sold; to Harvard University Art Museums, 1987.

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Ancient Art Acquisition Fund through the generosity of William Collins Kohler in memory of Dr. Elaine Humphreys Kohler
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
This S-shaped couch attachment would have been fastened to the side of a wooden headboard (fulcrum) of the same shape, where it would have served as an elbow-rest on a couch (1). The perpendicular shelf at the back of the piece, running around its contours, allowed the attachment to fit like a bracket onto the headrest; it was then secured with nails. At the lower left of the attachment is a medallion with a high relief bust of a female figure, probably a maenad or nymph. The figure is clad in a chiton and himation; her chest is frontal, while her head is in three-quarter view, turned to her left with her chin raised and mouth slightly open. She wears a headband (mitra) on her forehead, with her hair in a Hellenistic top-knot (krobylos) and ivy or thick clumps of hair hanging over her shoulders. The slanted central portion of the piece is decorated with a relief of a sleeping maenad or Ariadne. The figure reclines on a rock, with her head and torso twisting to her left and her lower body twisting to her right; her left leg is crossed over the right, and her right arm is behind her head. The figure is nude except for drapery over the lower body and genitalia. She has a garland and bunches of grapes on her head, with long, curly locks of hair falling over her shoulders. There may be a cornucopia below the figure. The upper right of the piece ends in a lively horse protome: its mouth gapes, and its bridled head is turned down and to its right.

The fulcrum attachment cannot be easily dated. The fact that the attachment was cast solid as a single piece with a central relief section recalls several similar Hellenistic attachments (2). Its relatively small size (c. 28.7 cm on the diagonal) might also support such a date, since fulcrum attachments often became larger and more upright over time (3). Furthermore, the Harvard attachment has double acute angles where the horizontal bottom edge meets the adjacent sloping side, a feature that S. Faust dates from the late second to the early first centuries BCE through the first half of the first century CE (4).

This fulcrum attachment probably adorned a couch in the dining room (triclinium) of a Roman villa. Its decoration, including maenads and possibly Ariadne, the wife of Dionysos, suggests a Dionysian theme, which would have been an appealing subject for a dining couch. The orientation, with the medallion at the lower left and the protome at the upper right, indicates that the piece would have supported a diner reclining on his left side. Whether it was part of a set of mirror-image attachments, which sometimes decorated Roman couches, cannot be ascertained (5).


1. Following B. Barr-Sharrar, The Hellenistic and Early Imperial Decorative Bust (Mainz, 1987) 4, the term “fulcrum” is used to denote “headrest,” as in ancient sources, while “fulcrum attachment” will refer to the S-shaped piece affixed to its side.

2. For instance, see the fulcrum attachment in the Antikensammlung Berlin, inv. no. 30167; compare also ibid., no. C 104, pl. 34. However, Barr-Sharrar points out that not all such attachments are necessarily of Hellenistic date; see ibid., 60 and 101.

3. See ibid., 7. Some fulcrum attachments of a similar size may be dated to the imperial period; compare ead., “The Bronze Fulcrum Attachment: Some Clarifications in the Chronology of Solutions to this Problematic Format,” in Griechische und römische Statuetten und Grossbronzen: Akten der 9. Tagung über antike Bronzen in Wein 21.-25. April 1986, eds. K. Gschwantler and A. Bernhard-Walcher (Vienna, 1988) 279-84. It is also possible that the Harvard attachment is from a child’s couch, as suggested to me by D. G. Mitten.

4. S. Faust, Fulcra: Figürlicher und ornamentaler Schmuck an antiken Betten (Mainz, 1989) 50-54.

5. On mirror-image fulcrum attachments, see Barr-Sharrar 1988 (supra 3) 279.

Natalie Taback Hansen

Publication History

  • Natalie Taback Hansen, "The Harvard Fulcrum Attachment: A Problem in Dating", From the Parts to the Whole: Acta of the 13th International Bronze Congress, ed. Carol C. Mattusch, Amy Brauer, and Sandra E. Knudsen, Journal of Roman Archaeology (Portsmouth, RI, 2000), vol. 1, 261-64
  • Lisa Anderson, "Approaches to the Identification and Classification of Ancient Bronzes in Museum Collections", Ancient Bronzes through a Modern Lens: Introductory Essays on the Study of Ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern Bronzes, ed. Susanne Ebbinghaus, Harvard Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 2014), 92-111, pp. 92 and 96, fig. 4.2.
  • Henry Lie and Francesca Bewer, "Ex Aere Factum: Technical Notes on Ancient Bronzes", Ancient Bronzes through a Modern Lens: Introductory Essays on the Study of Ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern Bronzes, ed. Susanne Ebbinghaus, Harvard Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 2014), 38-63, pp.49-50, fig. 2.7.
  • Susanne Ebbinghaus, ed., Ancient Bronzes through a Modern Lens: Introductory Essays on the Study of Ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern Bronzes, Harvard Art Museum/Yale University Press (Cambridge, MA, 2014), pp. 49-50, 92, 96, 174-175, figs. 2.7, 4.2

Exhibition History

  • Roman Gallery Installation (long-term), Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 09/16/1999 - 01/20/2008
  • Re-View: S422-423 Western Art of the Middle Ages & Renaissance, Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 08/16/2008 - 06/18/2011
  • 32Q: 3700 Roman, Harvard Art Museums, 11/16/2014 - 01/01/2050

Subjects and Contexts

  • Roman Domestic Art
  • Google Art Project
  • Ancient Bronzes

Verification Level

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