Courtesy of National Museums Liverpool, World Museum
Leaf of Diptych Venatio
The left panel of a diptych; the other leaf is now lost. There are two slots of hinges on the verso of the right edge, and a pair of holes above the upper slot and below the lower slot. The ivory pins are still visible in this pair of holes. There are also two further holes on the right edge and two more above the head of the central figure. The back of the panel is sunk as it customary for diptych panels for holding the wax where the inscribed letter of invitation and notification may have been inscribed.
Three men of senatorial rank, all wearing togas, sit on a balcony watching a stag-fight in the arena below. The young man in the centre displays a dish in his right hand, to his left an older man gestures towards the honorand in the centre and on the right a third man holds in his right hand a mappa to start the game below.The balcony where the men sit has four herms and panels of solid a jour carving. There are two dolphins in the angles below. The depiction of a staged hunt gives the panel its conventional name of 'Venatio' (Latin = hunt). In the stag fight we have two animals and four hunters (venatores). The first animal enters from the left and charges at the fighter at the right and attacks the principal fighter to the left and is fatally wounded by a pike and lies at the sand below. The second stag enters from the right and exits through the left door. All the fighters who take part wear short tunis and leggings, the man on the top right is older, the other three younger and the principal fighter is on a larger scale than the others who may be his associates.There are also four doors, the bottom right one has an engraving of a fighter clad in a loin cloth. There are traces of blue pigment on the balcony and of gilding on the lower edge.
The Emperor Theodosius prohibited the use of the ivory for non consular diptychs in 384. This panel may have therefore been produced in Rome rather than Constantinople. The central figure may have been the honorand presiding the games marking his quaestorship and it has been suggested that the Venue may be the Colloseum itself. The precise identity of the patrons cannot be determined.
The Venatio panel is first attested in the collection of P.G.de Roujoux at Macon in 1804. It then passed to Vivant Denon in Paris and then via Bruno Denon to Gabor Fejérváry. Fejérváry (1781-1851) was born in the modern-day Slovak Republic. In 1851 Fejérváry's collection was bequeathed to his nephew, Ferenc Pulszky, who sold the collection to Joseph Mayer in 1855.