The J. Paul Getty Museum

Rotary Key with Horse-Head Handle

Object Details


Rotary Key with Horse-Head Handle






2nd century A.D.


Bronze; Handle with iron shaft and bit

Object Number:



5.5 × 15.6 × 2.7 cm (2 3/16 × 6 1/8 × 1 1/16 in.)

Credit Line:

Gift of Barbara and Lawrence Fleischman

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Object Description

The head of a horse with its ears flattened and mane swept back as if galloping decorates the end of this Roman key. Heads of horses, as well as lions, panthers, and bears, were frequently used as Roman key handles. The horse's head and the floral element that covers the join to the shaft are cast in bronze. The shaft of the key and the intricate eight-slotted bit are forged from iron. The lock was invented in the Near East about four thousand years ago. From a simple initial model, artisans had devised complex locks by the Roman period. This key would probably have operated a lever lock very much like locks in use today, in which a lever falls into a slot in the bolt and prevents it from moving until the key lifts the lever to exactly the right height to release it from the slot.

- 1992

Robert Haber (New York, New York), sold to Barbara and Lawrence Fleischman, 1992.

1992 - 1996

Barbara Fleischman and Lawrence Fleischman, American, 1925 - 1997 (New York, New York), donated to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1996.

A Passion for Antiquities: Ancient Art from the Collection of Barbara and Lawrence Fleischman (October 13, 1994 to April 23, 1995)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum (Malibu), October 13, 1994 to January 15, 1995
  • The Cleveland Museum of Art (Cleveland), February 14 to April 23, 1995

True, Marion, and Kenneth Hamma, eds. A Passion For Antiquities. Ancient Art from the Collection of Barbara and Lawrence Fleischman, exh. cat. (Malibu: The J. Paul Getty Museum, 1994), p. 306, cat. no. 159.

"Museum Acquisitions Between July 1, 1996, and June 30, 1998." The Report of the J. Paul Getty Trust (1997-98), p. 66.

The J. Paul Getty Museum Handbook of the Antiquities Collection. Rev. ed. (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2010), p. 192.