Description & Technical information

Of rectangular form, with four cylindrical legs tapering to a circular profiled foot, each decorated with three turned bands, the tops of the legs protruding above the seat frame to form four circular bosses, a horizontal stretcher across the two short sides, also with a central turned band, each terminating at the leg in two curved attachment plates with chequered border, a rectangular space for the insertion of a woven seat.

Four-legged stools - or diphroi - of this type are known from numerous representations on Greek vases and reliefs and are also well-described in the ancient literature. A number of metal examples in silver and iron have been excavated from Hellenistic and Roman period tombs in Macedonia and Thrace, where they formed part of the funerary furniture buried with the dead; these diphroi were often used to support a vessel containing the ashes of the deceased or else for the placement of smaller offerings within the tomb.

The size of this example suggests it may have been used as a foot-stool, perhaps specifically for mounting and dismounting a horse. Domestic Greek stools were typically made of wood, sometimes with solid metal feet. Solid metal stools are unusual, suggesting ceremonial or perhaps royal use. It also points to Near Eastern influence.

Period:  Antiquity
Medium: Bronze
Dimensions: 35.9 x 29.5 x 20.5 cm (14¹/₈ x 11⁵/₈ x 8¹/₈ inches)
Provenance: UK collection acquired 1970s to 1990s; Property of a Private Foundation, acquired from the above 2003
Literature: A silver diphros of very similar design was found inside the 4th-century BC Macedonian tomb Agios Athanasios I at Stavroupolis, Thessaloniki (Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki, inv. no. ΜΘ 7440); see D. Andrianou, 'The Furniture and Furnishings of Ancient Greek Houses and Tombs', Cambridge, 2009, pp. 28-29, no. 6 and p. 158, n. 20 for further discussion and parallels. We can also compare the stool shown on the 4th century BC stele of Polyxena in Athens (National Museum, inv. no. 723) where the tops of the turned legs clearly protrude above the seat, a feature seemingly intended to keep the cushion in place; see G. M. A. Richter, 'The Furniture of the Greeks, Etruscans, and Romans', London, 1966, pp. 40-41.
For evidence of possible Near Eastern influence see H. Kyrieleis, 'Throne und Klinen: Studien zur Formgeschichte altorientalischer und griechischer Sitz- und Liegemobel vorhellenistischer Zeit' (Berlin, 1969), 40-41
Categories: Classical & Egyptian antiquities