The J. Paul Getty Museum

Offering to Priapus

Object Details


Offering to Priapus


Clodion (Claude Michel) (French, 1738 - 1814)




France (Place Created)


about 1775



Object Number:



45.1 × 33.5 × 21.9 cm (17 3/4 × 13 3/16 × 8 5/8 in.)

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Object Description

A woman dressed as a priestess leads a young girl, covering herself with a swath of cloth, toward a statue of Priapus, the ancient god of fertility. With distinctive goatlike ears, Priapus appears in the form of a term, a statue marking a territorial boundary. The smoking incense and the sacrificial tripod indicate that the young girl is making an offering of her charms. Cupid winds a floral garland around the statue of Priapus, camouflaging his characteristic erect phallus.

Sculptor Claude Michel, called Clodion, frequently drew from ancient mythology for his terracottas, but his borrowings rarely focused on grand events. For Clodion, ancient culture provided a classical figure style, a repertory of characters and settings, and perhaps most importantly, a nostalgic mood. As was typical of the Rococo style, his works tended to be playful and erotic.

Although Clodion finished the piece in the round, he designed it to be seen from the front, placed on a piece of furniture or on a mantelpiece. Known for his masterful handling of wet clay, the artist focused on texture, differentiating clingy or billowing drapery from satin-textured skin.

Clodion Terracottas in North American Collections (June 2 to September 30, 1984) (no. 7)
  • The Frick Collection (New York), June 2 to September 30, 1984
Terres cuites europeennes de 1750 a 1830 (September 15, 2003 to April 23, 2004) (no. 79)
  • Musée du Louvre (Paris), September 15, 2003 to January 5, 2004
  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York), January 30 to April 23, 2004