Archaic Greek Bronze Statuette of a Ram

Greek · Archaic, end of the 6th century B.C.

Material

Bronze

Dimensions

L: 11 cm

H: 5.3 cm

Reference

85

Price

$200,000

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Overview

This masterful bronze is a stunning example of Sicyonian work. The animal is represented in a very particular attitude, perhaps it is running or charging with its head lowered: because of the forward and outstretched position of the front legs (the hind legs are slightly bent but almost vertical) the back of the ram is strongly inclined forwards, and the muzzle close to the ground: this figurine probably belonged to a group of several elements.

It was common practice for the ram’s coat to be half shaved. This statuette is particularly well modeled with rounded shapes (which dominate in the treatment of the head, neck and rump) and incisions (used especially for the details of the muzzle, horns, paws and for the coat) which alternate skillfully in the artistic rendering of this figurine.  The horizontal lines and vertical intersecting lines create an incredible effect indicate the coat in an abstract fashion.

Along with the goat, the sheep were among the first animal species domesticated (Near East, around the 8th millennium BC) for food supply reasons (meat, dairy products) but also for wool, used for the manufacture of textiles and ropes. As many ancient texts (starting with Homer himself) prove, goats and sheep were the animals most frequently offered to the gods, which probably explains their popularity in ancient iconography. The Greeks most often associated the ram with Hermes, the god of traders and travelers; sometimes a ram’s head could adorn the top of the staff of the god, the caduceus.

This figurine may have adorned a large vase, a tripod or perhaps a piece of furniture; the only side visible to the spectator was the left, while a tenon inserted in the right part of the croup probably made it possible to fix it to its support.

Condition

The statuette, complete and very well preserved, was probably cast with the lost wax technique. Its legs, which are joined at the height of the hooves, are attached to two small rectangular plates; the rear right part was intentionally cut at an angle and pierced in antiquity, after the casting, in order to fix it to another object.

Provenance

Private collection, acquired in Germany in 1992.

Bibliography

KOZLOFF A.P., Animals in Ancient Art from the L. Mildenberg Collection, Mainz / Rhin, 1981, pp. 129-130, n. 109.
MITTEN D. G. – DOERINGER S. F., Master Bronzes from the Classical World, Mainz / Rhin, 1968, p. 71, n. 64.