The J. Paul Getty Museum

Statue of a Bear

Object Details


Statue of a Bear






Roman Empire (Place Created)


A.D. 100–125



Object Number:



171.2 × 53.3 × 127 cm (67 3/8 × 21 × 50 in.)

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Object Description

A bear climbs a rocky slope in this life-size Roman statue. The rocky landscape here implies that the animal is in the wild. The statue originally may have been part of a group scene depicting a hunt. Although they do appear in Roman art, bears are rare in large-scale Roman sculpture.

Native to Italy and to most other parts of the Roman Empire, including Asia Minor and Africa, bears were a part of life in the Roman world. They were hunted for sport in the wild, captured live, and then killed in staged hunts that were part of elaborate civic spectacles. They were also occasionally kept as exotic pets.

Bear hunting as a sport was the province of the nobility and in the 100s A.D., under the influence of the emperor Hadrian's enthusiasm for the sport, its popularity increased. The symbolism of the hunt emphasized strength and bravery; the fierceness and nobility of this beast asserted the courage and power of the man able to slay him.

- 1972

Robin Symes, Limited, founded 1977, dissolved 2005 (London, England), sold to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1972.


Vermeule, Cornelius, and Norman Neuerberg. Catalogue of the Ancient Art in the J. Paul Getty Museum (Malibu: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1973), pp. 13-14, no. 24, ill.

Fredericksen, Burton B., Jiří Frel, and Gillian Wilson. Guidebook: The J. Paul Getty Museum. 4th ed. Sandra Morgan, ed. (Malibu: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1978), p. 44.

Frel, Jiří. Antiquities in the J. Paul Getty Museum: A Checklist; Sculpture II: Greek Portraits and Varia (Malibu: J. Paul Getty Museum, November 1979), p. 37, no. V79.

Vermeule, Cornelius C. Greek Art: Socrates to Sulla; From the Peloponnesian Wars to the Rise of Julius Caesar. Art of Antiquity 2, pt. 2 (Boston: Dept. of Classical Art, Museum of Fine Art, 1980), pp. 99, 136, no. 139, 297, fig. 139, ill.

Vermeule, Cornelius C. Greek and Roman Sculpture in America (Berkeley and London: University of California Press, 1981), no. 121.

Moltesen, Mette, "Three Little Bears." In Ancient History Matters: Studies Presented to Jens Erik Skydsgaard on his Seventieth Birthday. Karen Ascani et al., eds. Analecta Romana Instituti Danici, suppl. XXX. (Rome: L'Erma di Bretschneider, 2002.), p. 282.