Statuette of a Bull

Object Details


Statuette of a Bull






Roman Empire (Place created)

Pompeii (said to be), Italy (Place found)


100 B.C. - A.D. 79


Silver with gilding


14 cm (5 1/2 in.)

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This statuette of a powerful bull standing with his head raised and eyes bulging may have been made as an offering to the god Jupiter, who often took the guise of a bull in mythological legends. Because it once belonged to Maria Christina of Savoy, the queen of the kingdom of the Two Sicilies, the bull is believed to have been found in Pompeii. If so, it would have been part of a wealthy Pompeiian family's household shrine, or lararium. Adorned with statuettes or painted images of gods, goddesses, and other deities, the shrine was the center of the Roman home. In it, household members made daily offerings to their gods for the protection of the family.

The artist's naturalistic modelling of the bull's anatomy shows the loose skin under the animal's neck in a series of pliant folds. The horns curve forward above the ears and the eyes have incised pupils, irises, and lashes. Ridges of sagging flesh frame the underbelly of the anatomically correct statuette.

1812 - 1835

Maria Christina di Savoia, Queen of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, 1812-1835, subsequently by inheritance to her nephew, Tommaso di Savoia.

- 1931

Tommaso di Savoia, 1854-1931, by inheritance to his daughter, Maria Adelaide di Savoia, 1931.

1931 - 1935

Maria Adelaide di Savoia, 1904-1935

Vgs Parsi di Londrone

Private Collection (Switzerland)

Sogo Life K.K. (Japan)

- 1997

Private Collection [sold, Antiquities, Christie's, New York, May 30, 1997, lot 174, to Robin Symes.]

1997 - 2001

Robin Symes, Limited, English, 1977 - 2005 (London, England), given to the J. Paul Getty Museum by exchange, 2001.

Pompeii and the Roman Villa (October 19, 2008 to October 4, 2009) (LACMA Only)
  • Los Angeles County Museum of Art, (Los Angeles), May 3 to October 4, 2009
The Last Days of Pompeii: Decadence, Apocalypse, Resurrection (September 12, 2012 to July 7, 2013) (LACMA Only)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Villa, (Malibu), September 12, 2012 to January 7, 2013

Christie's, New York. Sale cat., May 30, 1997. lot 174.

Robin Symes, Ltd., New York. Bull Leapers to Picasso. Exh. cat., December 6-16, 2000. Unpaged. ill.

The J. Paul Getty Museum Handbook of the Antiquities Collection (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2002) p. 196.

The J. Paul Getty Museum Handbook of the Collections. 7th ed. (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2007) p. 39, ill.

Mattusch, Carol C., et al. Pompeii and the Roman Villa: Art and Culture around the Bay of Naples, exh. cat. (Washington, D.C.: National Gallery of Art, with Thames & Hudson, 2008) p. 126, fig. 3.

The J. Paul Getty Museum Handbook of the Antiquities Collection. Rev. ed. (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2010) p. 207.

Di Mauro, Alberto. Italy Art LA, educational brochure (Los Angeles: Italian Cultural Institute of Los Angeles, 2012) p. 25.

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