The J. Paul Getty Museum

Statuette of a Sleeping Cupid

Object Details


Statuette of a Sleeping Cupid






A.D. 50–100



Object Number:



13.5 × 41.9 × 26 cm (5 5/16 × 16 1/2 × 10 1/4 in.)

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Object Description

Cupid, the winged child-god of love, lies with his right arm cast around his head, a typical motif to denote sleep. His missing left arm was probably limply extended. The strap for a quiver rests across his chest. Beneath him is a lion’s skin that covers a rocky surface—part of the tail is visible between his feet, and a paw to the right. The lion’s skin is an attribute of Hercules, and one tale tells of Cupid stealing his club, quiver, and lion’s skin, suggesting that even the mightiest are vulnerable to the playful, yet cunning, designs of love. In this sculpture, these symbols of the hero's strength are used to signal the irresistible power of Cupid.

The motif of the sleeping Cupid is found in both poetry and art, and surviving sculptures of this type probably derive from a Greek sculpture of the Hellenistic period (323-31 B.C.). The image was used by the Romans in a variety of ways: as a fountain or garden ornament, as a dedication to the gods, and, as was probably the case with this sculpture, as a funerary monument. Sleeping Cupids are often depicted on tomb monuments and sarcophagi, equating death with restful slumber. The image of the sleeping child-god was especially popular on children's graves.

- 1973

Antiken Heinz Herzer (Munich, Germany), sold to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1973.

Rome on the Grand Tour (January 8 to August 11, 2002)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), January 8 to August 11, 2002
Aphrodite and the Gods of Love (March 28, 2012 to May 26, 2013)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Villa (Malibu), March 28 to July 9, 2012

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. 38.

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. 92-93, 135, no. 127; ill. p. 283.

Soeldner, Magdalene. Untersuchungen zu liegenden Eroten in der hellenistischen und roemischen Kunst. Frankfurt: 1986, p. 625, no. 52; figs. 55-57.

Koch, Guntram, with Karol Wight. Roman Funerary Sculpture: Catalogue of the Collections (Malibu: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1988), pp. 114-16, no. 43, ill.

Grossman, Janet Burnett. Looking at Greek and Roman Sculpture in Stone (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2003), pp. colophon, ill.

Spivey, Nigel and Squire, Michael. Panorama of the Classical World (Los Angeles: Getty Publications, 2004), p. 48, fig. 71.

The J. Paul Getty Museum Handbook of the Antiquities Collection. Rev. ed. (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2010), p. 155.