Disk with two theater masks in relief, third quarter of 1st century a.d.; Early Imperial
Rogers Fund, 1913 (13.229.6)
Marble disks known as oscilla often decorated the interior gardens or peristyles of Roman houses and villas. They were designed to hang freely between the columns that surrounded the garden. Most were carved on both sides with images related to the world of Dionysus, the god of wine and revelry, who was also closely associated with the theater. Oscilla are preserved in situ at the House of the Golden Cupids at Pompeii, for example.
In both the Greek and Roman worlds, masks (with wigs attached) were used in the performance of scripted dramas and comedies, as well as various types of farce (for depictions, see 24.97.104, 51.11.2). They were frequently made of linen and generally covered the whole head. In mime, a popular comic genre during the Roman period, the actors were maskless, and their facial expressions were an essential part of the performance.