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Identification and Creation

Object Number
Table Leg
Work Type
mid 1st century BCE-mid 1st century CE
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World, Europe
Roman Republican period, Late, to Early Imperial
Persistent Link

Physical Descriptions

Bronze; copper, silver, and bronze inlays
Cast, lost-wax process
h. 19.4 x max diam. 5.9 cm (7 5/8 x 2 5/16 in.)
Technical Details

Chemical Composition: ICP-MS/AAA data from sample, Bronze:
Cu, 89.03; Sn, 9.69; Pb, 1.13; Zn, 0.019; Fe, 0.03; Ni, 0.02; Ag, 0.04; Sb, 0.04; 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: Main alloy
XRF data from Artax 2
Alloy: Bronze
Alloying Elements: copper, tin
Other Elements: lead, iron, silver, antimony

XRF data from Tracer
Alloy: Bronze
Alloying Elements: copper, tin
Other Elements: lead, iron

Inlay 1
XRF data from Artax 2
Alloy: Copper
Alloying Elements: copper
Other Elements: tin, lead, iron, silver, arsenic, gold

XRF data from Tracer
Alloy: Copper
Alloying Elements: copper
Other Elements: lead, iron

Inlay 2
XRF data from Artax 2
Alloy: Silver
Alloying Elements: silver
Other Elements: gold, lead

XRF data from Tracer
Alloy: Silver
Alloying Elements: silver, copper
Other Elements: gold, lead

Inlay 3
XRF data from Artax 2
Alloy: Bronze
Alloying Elements: copper, tin
Other Elements: tin, lead, iron, silver, arsenic, gold
Comments: This may be an example of black bronze.

K. Eremin, January 2014

Technical Observations: The patina is green with areas of dark brown. The leg is brittle due to corrosion, and numerous fragments have been lost at the edges of the disc-shaped projections. The lower terminal of the leg is also lost, and the remains of old restoration material are present at the loss.

The furniture leg is a solid cast. Finishing marks and incised lines are very crisp where they are preserved, and they were cut into the leg while it was turned on a lathe, probably at a relatively slow speed. The inlayed plant forms on the lower end were hammered into grooves and leaf shapes cut into the bronze casting. Several of the more elongated leaf inlays are a white metal, which was confirmed by XRF to be silver, while others are copper and bronze.

Henry Lie (submitted 2001)


Recorded Ownership History
[Sotheby’s, New York, June 25, 1992, lot 329], sold; to Harvard University Art Museums, 1992.

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, David M. Robinson Fund
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 leg would have belonged to an elaborately decorated wooden couch or table, as Harvard’s intarsia panels (for example, 1992.316) or fulcrum (1987.130) would also have. The leg is solid, and the shaft is decorated with eight molded discs of varying diameter and roundness. The broadest disc, at the top of the leg, is only partially preserved; it bears a series of circular impressions on its surface that may relate to how it was attached to the couch. The bottom of the leg is piriform and decorated with inlaid foliage. The silver and copper alloy inlays consist of simple olive branches with leaves and olives, as well as curving vines with grape leaves.

Roman furniture legs often featured elaborately modeled discs and decoration, like the Harvard example (1).


1. Compare L. Pirzio Biroli Stefanelli, ed., Il bronzo dei Romani: Arredo e suppellettile (Rome, 1990) 76-78, 173-76, and 263-67, nos. 31-34, 36, and 42, figs. 34-36, 138-43, and 247; and J. W. Hayes, Greek, Roman, and Related Metalware in the Royal Ontario Museum: A Catalogue (Toronto, 1984) 177-78 and 180, nos. 299-300.

Lisa M. Anderson

Publication History

  • 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), p. 83

Exhibition History

  • Roman Gallery Installation (long-term), Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 09/16/1999 - 01/20/2008

Subjects and Contexts

  • Ancient Bronzes
  • Roman Domestic Art

Verification Level

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