Orpheus Taming Wild Animals













Orpheus Taming Wild Animals
Date: A.D. 194
Dimensions: Overall: 64 3/4 x 60 in. (1 m 64.46 cm x 1 m 52.4 cm)
Medium: Marble, mosaic
Culture: Eastern Roman Empire, near Edessa
Object Number: DEACC.1999.305
Deaccession Criteria: Restitution/Returned to rightful owner: the work has been legally requested for restitution.

PURCHASE INFORMATION: Dealer: Christie’s New York (December 9, 1999)

PROVENANCE SUPPLIED: December 9, 1999: Christie's, New York (Antiquities Sale, Sale Code: Achilles-9260, Lot 388)


  • Dallas Museum of Art: A Guide to the Collection. Dallas: Dallas Museum of Art, 2012, p. 142.
  • Healey, John. "A New Syriac Mosaic Inscription." In Journal of Semitic Studies, no. 61, 2006, p. 315.
  • Dallas Museum of Art: Year in Review 1999–2000, annual report, p. 17 (ill.).
  • Kutner, Janet."Mosaic Acquired." Dallas Morning News,, May, 23, 2000.
  • Antiquities, Christie's New York, auction catalogue, December 1999, Lot 388, p. 90.


  • All the World's a Stage, Dallas Museum of Art, August 2009–February 2010
  • Passion for Art: 100 Treasures, 100 Years, Dallas Museum of Art, October 2003–March 2004
  • Otherwise in DMA permanent collection galleries September 2000–present

PROPOSED METHOD OF DISPOSAL: Shipping of object to export country

CRITERIA FOR DEACCESSIONING: A request from the Turkish government for restitution, with compelling evidence, including
photographs of the mosaic in situ, that the object was looted and/or illegally exported

A. Two newly recovered in situ photos of the mosaic showing it being removed by the smugglers. The photographs also show the full work with its decorative borders intact, prior to it being removed from the ground. The photographs were printed by a local photo shop in Sanliurfa and are currently evidence in a criminal investigation being carried out by the Sanliurfa Head Prosecutor in order to
identify everyone involved in the crime.

B. Expertise reports prepared by various scientists, art historians, and archaeologists offering comparisons to other mosaics from Edessa (modern city of Sanliurfa) and arguing that various stylistic and iconographic similarities prove it was smuggled from the region.

a. Assistant Professor Dr. Baris Salman, Ahi Evran University, Faculty of Art and Science,
Department of Archaeology:
i. Stylistically and iconographically similar to other Edessa mosaics. Specifically, the inscription is similar both in style and content to other Edessa mosaics. The Syriac script used originated in Edessa. Other features typical of the area include the absence of depth, the light colors, and the expression and facial features. The date indicated in the inscription falls within the period of mosaic construction in Edessa.

b. Hakki Alhan, Archaeologist, and Taner Atalay, Analyst, Gaziantep Museum, Turkey:
i. Concluded that the composition style, animal figures, and especially the Syriac inscription have features of the Assyrian Kingdom, appearing in Sanliurfa precincts in the 3rd century A.D., and was smuggled from the region.

c. Eyüp Bucak, Archaeologist, and Hamza Güllüce, Archaeologist from the Sanliurfa Museum:
i. Was not one of the documented mosaics in the area, but concluded that the composition, the figures, and the tesserae’s dark lines reflect features of Assyrian mosaics appearing in the region during the 3rd century A.D.

d. L. Zoroglu, Selcuk University, Faculty of Science and Art, Department of Archaeology, Konya:
i. Compared it to another Edessa mosaic and concluded it was smuggled from the region because they both include Chaldean inscriptions indicating the date of the artifact, showing that they were created around the same time. It also has a common subject of the region.

e. Müslüm Ercan, Archaeologist, and Bülent Üçdag, Art Historian, Sanliurfa Museum:
i. Cites the Syriac inscription, the figure and his clothing, and the in situ photographs as evidence of being from Edessa. It was made by the same artist as another Edessa mosaic (name is included in the inscription) and have identified it as belonging to a rock tomb located in Kalkan District in Sanliurfa.

f. Assistant Professor Dr. Mehmet TOP, Yusuneu Yil University, Faculty of Arts, Department of
Art History:
i. Concluded that the mosaic is an artifact from Sanliurfa based on the early Assyrian inscription and its similarity with the other Orpheus mosaic from Edessa.

Orpheus mosaic in situ. This photograph was provided by the Sanliurfa Prosecutor's Office. It is evidence in a criminal prosecution within Turkey against looters. The mosaic's border is visible in this photograph; it was missing when the DMA purchased the mosaic, presumably removed by looters because it was incomplete. The canister visible in the lower right contains a Turkish brand of glue, which looters--not archaeologists--would have used to make repairs.