Shoulder-strap of a cuirass with a head of an Amazon
Late Classical or Early Hellenistic Period
4th century B.C.
Sculpture in Stone and Bronze (MFA), no. 119.
Height: 16 cm (6 5/16 in.)
Medium or Technique
This bronze relief decorated one of the shoulder straps (epomydes) which would have secured the dorsal plate to the breastplate of a cuirass (thorax). The epomydes were permanently affixed to the dorsal plate and fastened to the ventral plate via leather ties. These objects rarely survive but depictions of them suggest that straps of this form were affixed to muscled cuirasses. The relief depicts a female bust wearing a Phrygian cap, the ends of which fall down to her shoulders and curl back upwards overlapping the incised lines at the edge of the bronze plate. A uniform stippling covers the cap. She is an Amazon, a member of the feared mythical race who fought the Greeks in the Trojan War, and she also wears an elaborate coiled necklace with a rosette pendant and looped earrings. Perhaps her rightward gaze met that of a bust of a Greek on the opposite shoulder. This arrangement – especially with the direction of her glance – might evoke the myth of the Amazonian queen Penthesilea and the Greek hero Achilles, who fell in love with this enemy leader when he simultaneously delivered the fatal blow and met her eyes. The direction of the gaze suggests that this was the plate for the left shoulder. Part of the upper hinge is preserved, with three rivets. Six holes punched around the rim probably secured a leather backing.
A small fragment was reattached at upper left in the MFA.
By 1986: with Acanthus Gallery of Art, 138 East 74th Street, New York 10021; purchased by MFA from Acanthus Gallery of Art, June 25, 1986
Frank B. Bemis Fund