The J. Paul Getty Museum

Statuette of a Bull

Object Details


Statuette of a Bull






Italy (Place Created)


25 B.C.–A.D. 75


Silver with gilding

Object Number:



14 × 4.5 × 14.2 cm (5 1/2 × 1 3/4 × 5 9/16 in.)

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Object Description

A solid-cast statuette of a bull stands firmly on three legs with his left front hoof raised. His head is lifted and turned slightly to the left. The naturalistic modelling of the bull’s anatomy and musculature shows the loose skin under the animal’s neck in a series of pliant folds. The horns curve forward above the projecting ears and the eyes have incised pupils, irises, and lashes. The nostrils in the square snout are carved indentations and the poll is a mass of thick, curling locks. The tail curls back onto the right flank of the beast with the tassel of the tail resting against it. The animal is anatomically correct with genitals and incised ridges of sagging flesh framing the underbelly.

The image of a powerful bull may allude to the god Jupiter, who was associated with the animal, or to the bull-god Apis, an Egyptian deity. This statuette was most likely made as a votive offering that stood in a lararium—a household shrine that contained small sculptures of protective deities in bronze and sometimes silver.


Maria Cristina di Borbone-Napoli, Queen of Sardinia, 1779 - 1849, by inheritance to her heirs.


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


Maria Adelaide di Savoia, Italian, 1904 - 1979


Vgs Parsi di Lodrone (near Venice, Italy)


Private Collection (Switzerland)


Kojiro Ishiguro, 1916 - 1992 (Tokyo, Japan)

- 1997

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

1997 - 2001

Robin Symes, Limited, founded 1977, dissolved 2005 (London, England), by exchange with the J. Paul Getty Museum, 2001.

Provenance Remarks: Christie’s published the following provenance for the bull in the sale catalogue (May 30, 1997): “Said to have been found at Pompeii circa 1780-1790, and later in the collection of Maria Cristina di Savoia. Subsequently inherited by Tommaso di Savoia, and then his daughter Maria Adelaide di Savoia. Later in the collections of Vgs Parsi di Londrone, a Swiss private collector, and Sogo Life K.K.” This information derives only from a statement attributed to the previous owner, Mr. Kojiro Ishiguro of Mikazuki (1916-1992), and no further evidence has been found for the Pompeii findspot or the House of Savoy provenance. The Queen of Naples in the 1780s was Maria Carolina of Austria (1752-1814). Maria Cristina of Savoy (1812-1836) was only briefly Queen of the Two Sicilies from 1832-1836. The provenance statement quoted above may confuse Maria Cristina of Savoy with Maria Cristina di Borbone-Napoli (1779-1849), daughter of Maria Carolina of Austria and later a Savoy by marriage, since her titles and property passed directly to Carlo Alberto of Sardinia (1790-1849), the grandfather of Tommaso di Savoia (1854-1931).

Pompeii and the Roman Villa (October 19, 2008 to October 4, 2009)
  • 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)
  • 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: 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., eds. 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.

Sofroniew, Alexandra. Household Gods: Private Devotion in Ancient Greece and Rome (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2015), p. 41, fig. 20.

Lapatin, Kenneth. Luxus: The Sumptuous Arts of Greece and Rome (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2015), pp. 100, 241, pl. 74.