Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History



  • Mouth-piece, Cypro-Archaic or Cypro-Classical, late 6th–5th century b.c.
    Cypriot; from Cyprus
    Gilded silver

    L. 3 in. (7.6 cm)
    The Cesnola Collection, Purchased by subscription, 1874–76 (74.51.3004)

    On this silver gilt mouth-piece (epistomion), the embossed lips are realistically rendered and form a smile. The burial custom of fastening bands of silver or gold sheet over the mouth of the deceased dates back to prehistoric times and was observed throughout the Greek world. In Cyprus, similar gold and gilded silver bands were found in chamber tombs from Marion dating from the late fourth century B.C. down to Roman times. They were part of grave-good assemblages of rich female burials. It is very probable that the mouth-piece performed a function analogous to that of the inscribed gold lamellae (leaves) that promised eternal bliss and are often found in tombs of initiates in the Bacchic-Orphic mysteries.

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    On view: Gallery 171
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    Mouth-piece, Cypro-Archaic or Cypro-Classical, late 6th–5th century b.c.
    Cypriot; from Cyprus
    Gilded silver

    L. 3 in. (7.6 cm)
    The Cesnola Collection, Purchased by subscription, 1874–76 (74.51.3004)


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