The Leopards Panel
The Leopards Panel
The so-called 'Leopards Panel' was found in 1971 at the 4th century Roman villa at Rudston, East Yorkshire. It formed the floor of a threshold into the room of the Charioteer Mosaic and may have been placed under an archway. Like its neighbour it dates to between about 325 and 350 AD.
The mosaic depicts two leopards leaping towards a 'crater' - a bowl for mixing water and wine. The vessel has a fluted body and is shown as though just below eye level. Although the animals are fairly naturalistic, the colouring is anything but with green coats and blue spots! It is likely, as with the animals on the Venus Mosaic also from Rudston villa, that the mosaicists were copying the design from a pattern-book and had never seen a leopard in the flesh.
The use of the 'crater' links the design to Bacchus, the god of wine and revelry. This is a common theme in mosaics intended for Roman dining rooms. The link can also be seen in the vines and bunches of grapes that appear in the borders of the Venus Mosaic.
What we have lost
The Leopards Panel was found in the centre of a double room in Building 8 at Rudston Villa. The Charioteer Mosaic was at the north-western end of the room and another mosaic, known as 'The Mosaic of Small Figures', formed the floor of the south-eastern half. Unfortunately this part of the room had been much damaged by the laying of a pipe trench in the 19th century and only tantalising fragments of the mosaic remain.
'The Mosaic of Intersecting Circles'
In an adjoining room to the south west the excavators found another mosaic, also sadly damaged. This was called 'The Mosaic of Intersecting Circles' and was clearly not the first mosaic in the room as the wall plaster was seen to carry on below its level. Although this mosaic was lifted and transferred to Hull Museums, the operation was not nearly as successful as the lifting of the other mosaics from the site. It seems that the pavement was not allowed sufficient time to dry before being coated and rolled for removal. The remains are today very fragmentary and unfortunately cannot be displayed.