Relief with the Dioscuri
Hadrianic period. Early 2nd century.
Length 97.4 cm.
Christie’s Fine Art Auction House, New York

Relief with the Dioscuri

Hadrianic period. Early 2nd century.
Length 97.4 cm.

Christie’s Fine Art Auction House, New York.

Private collection.
Wilhelm Henrich, Frankfurt.
Hubertus Wald (1913—2005), Hamburg, acquired from the above, 1961; thence by descent to the Hubertus Wald Charitable Foundation.
The Hubertus Wald Charitable Foundation; Antiquities, Christie’s, London, 26 April 2012, lot 211.
Ariadne Galleries, New York, acquired from the above (The Wald Dioscuri).
Acquired by the current owner from the above.
Christie’s Fine Art Auction House, New York. Live Auction 17643, Lot 445, 28 Oct 2019.
Estimate: $500,000—800,000. Price Realized: $735,000 (price includes buyer’s premium).

Exhibited: New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2014—2019.

A Roman marble relief with the Dioscuri

Hadrianic period, circa early 2nd century A. D.

This magnificent marble relief depicts the divine twins Castor and Pollux. The youths stand in mirror image, each wearing a pilos — a conical cap — and are nude but for a chlamys draped around their shoulders. Each hold the reins of his horses in one hand and a spear in the other. In the center is a flaming cylindrical altar decorated with garland and surrounded by a bull, a cock and a wild boar. Two stars and a crescent moon are present in the field above. The scene is bordered by contoured moldings on three sides.

The Greek Dioskouri, Castor and Polydeuces, were the twin sons of Zeus and Leda (the name is taken from the Greek Dios kouris, or “youth of Zeus”). The pair is best known for their role in several important mythological events. In one, they were sent to rescue their sister Helen after she was kidnapped by Theseus. The twins also hunted with Meleager and other heroes for the Calydonian Boar and joined Jason and the Argonauts in their quest for the Golden Fleece.

Only Polydeuces, was born immortal and this gift was not originally conferred onto Castor. The Dioskouri abducted the twins Phoebe and Hilaeria, the daughters of King Leucippus, whom they forced into marriage. The women were already promised to Idas and Lynceus, the nephews of Leucippus, who pursued the twins. The ensuing battle resulted in the deaths of the nephews but Castor was mortally wounded. Polydeuces appealed to Zeus who agreed to share immortality with Castor, so long as the two would alternate their days between Olympus and the Underworld.

While Sparta was the center of the Dioskouri’s cult, the two were readily adopted in Rome, where they were introduced as early as 500 B.C. Their names were later latinized to the Castores, Castor and Pollux. The twins were known to come to the aid of those in need and appeared to sailors in the guise of the electric weather phenomenon known as St. Elmo’s Fire. It is likely that this relief functioned as a votive to the twins, either to thank them for their assistance or to proactively ask for their help. The stars and moon above the twins point to their divine nature.

This relief is related to an example in Avignon at the Musée Calvet, which also preserves a mirrored scene of the twins and their horses (see no. 139 in A. Hermay, “Dioskouroi,” in LIMC, vol. III). Another example, in Mainz at the Zentralmuseeum, shows the twins holding spears and the reins of their horses (see no. 40 in F. Gury, “Dioskouroi/Castores,” in LIMC, vol. III). While both examples date to the 2nd century, the craftsmanship of the present relief far surpasses these provincial examples, suggesting it was created in a Neo-Attic workshop during the reign of the Emperor Hadrian.

Hubertus Wald was a German entrepreneur and philanthropist who operated the largest chain of cinemas in post-war Germany. His house in Hamburg was host to some of the most celebrated personalities of the late twentieth century including Andy Warhol, Omar Sharif, Romy Schneider and Gunter Sachs. Along with his wife, Renate, the Walds amassed an enviable collection of Impressionist and Modern masterpieces, prints, and ancient works of art.

T. Ketelsen, ed., Die Sammlung Hubertus und Renate Wald, Hamburg, 1998, pp. 184—185.
© 2019. Photo, text: Christie’s Fine Art Auction House (Live Auction 17643, Lot 445).
Keywords: ελληνική μυθολογία mythologia graeca greek mythology mitologia greca griechische mythologie grecque διόσκοροι διόσκουροι κάστωρ kastor πολυδεύκης polydeukes gemini dioscuri castor et pollux castores tyndaridae tyndarids polydeuces castore polideuce polluce dioskuren und tyndariden dioscures γλυπτική sculptura sculpture sculptural scultura skulptur ρωμαϊκό roman romana romano romani römisch römische römisches römischen römischer romain romaine romains romaines ανακούφιση relief rilievo marble marmo marmor marbre μάρμαρο serta garland garlands ghirlanda ghirlandi girlande guirlande γιρλάντα equus equi horse horses cavallo cavalli pferd pferde cheval chevaux ίππος άλογα cloak mantello mantel manteau μανδύα eques horseman rider cavaliere reiter cavalier ιππέας hasta spear lancia speer lance δόρυ fibula fastener clasp brooch fibbia spilla fibel schließe fibule taurus bull toro stier taureau βόδι ταύρος bridle rein reins testiera redini zaum zaumzeug zügel rêne rênes guides bride hostia victima sacrificial animal victim animale sacrificale vittima opfertier opfer sacrificiel victime θυσιαστικό ζώο θύμα cassis pilos helmet elmo pileo helm casque πῖλος chlamys clamide χλαμύδος burning lighted altar altare brucia accesa brennender autel brûlant nude man uomo nudo nackt nackter mann homme nu star stella stern l’étoile half moon crescent falce di luna halbmond croissant dismounted smontato abmontierter débarqué fire flames fuoco fiamme feuer flammen feu flamme pig maiale porco schwein cochon cock gallo hahn coq hubertus wald