The J. Paul Getty Museum

Balsamarium in the Form of a Boxer's Head

Object Details


Balsamarium in the Form of a Boxer's Head






Eastern Mediterranean, Egypt (?) (Place Created)


A.D. 1–100


Bronze with silver

Object Number:



17.1 × 15 cm (6 3/4 × 5 7/8 in.)

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Object Description

Wearing a tight leather helmet, this ancient boxer grimaces fiercely and aggressively confronts the viewer. A curled lip reveals the gaps of missing teeth. His expression causes muscles in his face to stand out along his jaw, cheeks, neck, temples and forehead. His cheeks are clean-shaven, but small tufts of hair bristle at the corners of his mouth. Originally, his eyes and teeth were inlaid with silver, and a handle was attached to the holes on either side of his head.

The vessel served as a balsamarium or situla, a container for holding ointments or oils. Athletes often used such unguents after practice or competition, and so the head of a boxer is an especially appropriate choice for this type of vessel. Though the face looks distinctive, it is best seen as a generic image or type. If offers a stereotyped, or perhaps even exaggerated, depiction of an experienced boxer.

- 1888

Henri Hoffmann, 1823 - 1897 (Paris, France) [sold, Catalogue des objets d'art antiques, vases peints, marbres, bronzes, argenterie, poids grecs, ivoires, expert M.H. Hoffmann, Hotel Drouot, Paris, lot 416.]

by 1892 - 1898

Count Michel Tyszkiewicz, Polish, 1828 - 1897 (Paris, France) [sold, Collection d'antiquites du Comte Michel Tyszkiewicz, Hotel Drouot, Paris, June 8-10, 1898, lot 153.]

1898 -

Henri Hoffmann, 1823 - 1897 (Paris, France)


Gawain McKinley, 1945 - 1996 (France)

- 2003

or Thomas Howard Sneyd (London, England), sold to Dr. David Greenberg, 2003.


Dr David Greenberg (Chicago, Illinois), sold to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 2007.

The Burlington International Fine Art Fair (September 28 to October 12, 1979)
  • Burlington Fine Arts Club (London), September 28 to October 12, 1979

Hotel Drouot, Paris. Catalogue des Objets D'Art Antiques, par W. Froehner. May 28-29, 1888, p. 113, lot 416, plate XXXII.

Froehner, Wilhelm. La Collection Tyszkiewicz: choix de monuments antiques (Munich: Verlagsanstalt fur kunst und Wissenschaft, 1892), pp. 34-35, pl. 36.

Hotel des Commissaires-Priseurs, Paris. Collection D'Antiquites du Comte Michel Tyszkiewicz. June 8-10, 1898, p. 55, lot 153, plate XIX.

Boucher, Stéphanie. Recherches sur les bronzes figurés de Gaule pré-romaine et romaine. (Paris: Diffusion de Boccard, 1976), pp. 187n66, 392.

René Gott S.A. and Thomas Howard-Sneyd, advertisement. The Burlington International Fine Art Fair. The Burlington Magazine, vol. 121, no. 918 (1979), n.p., ill.

Snitkuvienė, Aldona. Biržų grafai Tiškevičiai ir jų Palikimas. (Kaunas : Nacionalinis M. K. Čiurlionio dailės muziejus, 2008), p. 285, no. 1124, ill.

Tovar, Carrie. "Battered but Unbeaten: A New Getty Acquisition." Apollo 167, iss. 551 (February 2008), pp. 62-67, figs. 1-4.

The J. Paul Getty Museum Handbook of the Antiquities Collection. Rev. ed. (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2010), p. 196.

Agre, Daniela, Dichev, Deyan and Gennady Agre. "Roman Balsamarium as a Male Head in Feline-Skin Cap from the Territory of Southeast Bulgaria." American Journal of Archaeology 123, no. 4 (2019), 694-695.