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Diptych with Circus Scenes

5th century

Ivory H 33 cm

In the 5th and 6th centuries such ivory diptychs were produced to commemorate the conferment of the title of consul (the highest position in Ancient Rome remained in Byzantium as a honorary title) and thus are known as consular diptychs. According to tradition, after the conferment the consul had to arrange a circus performance, during which small change was handed round.

On the two panels we see animals being taunted. The entire surface of the diptych is covered with scenes, in which tense moments in the contest between man and beast are convincingly conveyed; there is, however, no sign of the traditional representation of a new consul.

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