Gallo-Roman Bronze Jupiter Tonans

Roman · Gallo-Roman, ca. 1st – 2nd century A.D.




H: 33.6 cm (13.2 in)





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An imposing nude figure represents the su-preme god of the Romans, Jupiter. Of mature age, with abundant curly hair arranged with a diadem and a long beard, the powerful Olym-pian exposes his ideally built muscular body in an assured pose. The inlayed large eyes made of silver and the red copper used for the nipples, a precise chiseling of individual hair locks mark this exquisite work by a Gallo-Roman bronze maker, whose successful workshop should be in one of the North-Western provinces of the Empire. The images of the god presented on Roman coins and among the statuettes with surviv-ing attributes help to reconstruct the complete composition of the figure designated as Jupi-ter in Magesty: standing with the weight on one leg the figure raises one arm to hold a long scepter and lowers the other bent arm, which holds the thunderbolt. Such was the look of the monumental cult statue of Jupiter Tonans (the Thunderer) in his Roman temple near the Capi-toline Hill, which was dedicated by Augustus in 22 B.C. The story was recorded by Suetonius (Vita Augusti 29.91): “He [Augustus] dedicated the shrine to Jupiter the Thunderer because of a narrow escape; for on his Cantabrian expedi-tion during a march by night, a flash of lightning grazed his litter and struck the slave dead who was carrying a torch before him”. Allegedly, the statue inside the temple was that of Zeus Bron-taios, a 4th century B.C. Greek masterwork by Leochares, of which a Roman marble statue in the Prado is considered a faithful replica. The monumental statue in Rome was highly praised and copied several times in a variety of media and size. The smaller replicas and their molds were diffused in the provincial workshops to serve models for the local bronze makers, who also replicated it in the mirror image, as this statuette presents. The rendering of anatomy of a well-trained body is remarkable; the emphasis on the groups of muscles of bulging rounded shapes, especially noticeable at the back, is complemented with more detailed depiction of strained muscles of the abdomen, arms, and lower legs. Another particular feature of modeling is the fine delin-eation coming along both sides of the torso to lower abdomen in curving and crossing double lines. This decorative motive should be under-stood as a designation of a heroic cuirass (a metal cuirass with naturalistically-modelled musculature, often represented in the marble statues of Roman emperors and generals). The combination of the naked body and the motive is unusual; it was probably conceived as an allu-sion to the image of Jupier Dolichenus (Jupiter optimus maximus Dolichenus). This specific cult of Jupiter (sometimes addressed as “eternal preserver”), with his image completely dressed and armed, originated in the Roman East (the epithet derives from the Syrian city of Doliche) and widespread in the 2nd -3rd century A.D. throughout the western provinces, becoming especially popular and important in the military areas. Remains of several temples and shrines dedicated to Jupiter Dolichenus were recorded by the archaeologists in different parts of the Empire.


This statuette is an extraordinary sculpture considering its greater than average size. It could have been a valuable ex-voto dedicated to the sanctuary of the god. The original base of the figure was not preserved; it could have the inscription mentioning the name and titles of a donor. The statuette could also be placed in a lararium, a home shrine, among the images of other deities and spirits considered as fam-ily patrons and guards. A commission and pur-chase of a larger and more expensive bronze figure would make a dedication more signifi-cant. As the complexes of figurines found in the better-known Pompeiian lararia demonstrate, they were composed of the statuettes distin-guished by size, normally with the images of principal deities larger than the others.


Gold-brown patina with some green oxidation; missing are two fingertips of the left hand.


Ex- Georges Halphen private collection, Paris, acquired prior to 1995.


Phoenix Ancient Art 2023 – 42, no. 7, pp. 36-39


San Francisco Fall Show, San Francisco, California, October 2022;

Salon Art + Design, Park Avenue Armory, New York, November 2022


ADAMO-MUSCETTOLA S., Osservazioni sulla composizione dei larari con statuette in bronzo di Pompei ed Ercolano, in GEHRING U., ed., Toreutik und figürliche Brozen römischer zeit, Akten der 6. Tagung über antike Bronzen 13. – 17. Mai 1980 in Berlin, Berlin, 1984, pp. 9-32.
BOUCHER S., Recherches sur les bronzes figurés de Gaule pré-romaine et romaine, Bibliothèque des écoles françaises d’Athènes et de Rome 228, 1976. CHARBONNEAUX J., Le Zeus Brontaios de Leochares, in Monuments et Mémoires de la Fondation Eugène Piot 53, 1963, pp. 9-17. KAUFMANN-HEINIMANN A., Function and Use of Roman Medium-Sized Statuettes in the Northwestern Provinces, in DAEHNER J. M., LAPATIN K., SPINELLI A., eds., Artistry in Bronze: The Greeks and Their Legacy, XIXth International Congress of Ancient Bronzes, Los Angeles, 2017, pp. 151-158. KAUFMANN-HEINIMANN A., Götter und
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Lexicon Iconographicum Mythologiae Classicae (LIMC) VIII, Zürich, Düsseldorf, 1997, s.v. Zeus/Juppiter, nos. 4, 56-97; s.v. Juppiter Dolichenus;
s.v. Zeus/Juppiter (in peripheria occidentali),
nos. 1-2.
MENZEL H., Die Jupiterstatuetten von Bree, Evreux und Dalheim und verwandte Bronzen, in GEHRING U., ed., Toreutik und figürliche Brozen römischer zeit, Akten der 6. Tagung über antike Bronzen 13. – 17. Mai 1980 in Berlin, Berlin, 1984, pp. 186-196.