Roman Bronze Statuette of a She-Goat
Period: circa 1st century B.C.
Dimensions: H: 23 cm - L: 19 cm (approx.)
Ex-Dr. Atanasov collection, Germany, collected in the 1970’s.
This sensitively modeled, hollow-cast bronze goat is in an excellent state of preservation. The goat is complete except for the lower parts of the legs, the tips of the ears and horns, and the tail. In addition, the belly has been slightly crushed. The goat is covered in a grainy, brightgreen patina.
Although the lower parts of her legs are missing, it is evident that this goat once stood in a graceful, natural pose, with her legs spaced asymmetrically. The goat’s head is cocked playfully, and her expression is gentle, almost sweet. The goat’s gender is clear from her full, rounded udders. The careful treatment of the fleece, in wavy locks, and the precise rendering of musculature of her neck, flanks and legs illustrate the Roman artistic taste for realistic detail.
Goats were popular animals in the Greco-Roman world due to their hardy nature. In the mountainous terrain of much of the Greek and Roman world, goats can not only find sufficient food, but can also produce valuable resources like milk, cheese, meat, hide and horn. It is no wonder, then, that goats were often depicted in Greek and Roman art. Goats appear occasionally in Mycenaean and Geometric art, but did not become a common motif until the 6th and early 5th centuries B.C. when they appeared frequently in vase painting. From the late Archaic Period, there are a great number of examples of goat statuettes in various postures and styles, the forerunners of our goat.
Statuettes of goats are found throughout the Mediterranean throughout the late Hellenistic and early Roman periods. A small bronze she-goat, now in Cleveland, from the end of the 2nd century B.C., is similar to our own in the intricate working of the wavy locks of fleece, the naturalistic pose, and sensitive rendering of the face. A goat statuette found in a Roman villa in ancient Caesariana (modern-day Baláca) in the Roman province of Pannonia (modern-day Hungary) is also similar to ours in stature and composition. However, the Pannonian goat differs from our example in that it is male, and lacks the playful tilt of the head as well as the intricate detailing of our goat. A goat head from the Mildenberg collection provides another parallel to our example. This head is smaller than ours, but shares its careful treatment of the face, beard and neck.
For the she-goat in Cleveland:
For Pannonian goat:
Thomas, E. B., Römische Villen in Pannonien, Budapest, 1964, p. 106, pl. 82.
For goat head in private collection:
Kozloff, A., More Animals in Ancient Art from the Leo Mildenberg Collection, Mainz/Rhine, 1986, p. 53, Nr. 153.
Richter, G., Animals in Greek Sculpture, New York, 1930, pp. 25-27.