Statuette of a Bull
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Roman, Pompeii, 100 B.C. - A.D. 79
Silver and gold
5 1/2 in.

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This statuette of a powerful bull standing with his head raised and eyes bulging may have been made as an offering to the god Jupiter, who often took the guise of a bull in mythological legends. Because it once belonged to Maria Christina of Savoy, the queen of the kingdom of the Two Sicilies, the bull is believed to have been found in Pompeii. If so, it would have been part of a wealthy Pompeiian family's household shrine, or lararium. Adorned with statuettes or painted images of gods, goddesses, and other deities, the shrine was the center of the Roman home. In it, household members made daily offerings to their gods for the protection of the family.

The artist's naturalistic modelling of the bull's anatomy shows the loose skin under the animal's neck in a series of pliant folds. The horns curve forward above the ears and the eyes have incised pupils, irises, and lashes. Ridges of sagging flesh frame the underbelly of the anatomically correct statuette.