Statuette of a Sleeping Eros
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Roman, A.D. 50 - 100
5 5/16 x 16 1/2 x 10 1/4 in.

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Eros, the winged child-god of love, lies sleeping on a lionskin. This image, derived from a Hellenistic Greek sculpture, was extremely popular with the Romans, who used it in a variety of ways: as a fountain or garden ornament, as a dedication to the gods, and, as was the case with this sculpture, as a funerary monument. In this context, the sleeping Eros brings to mind both sleep and death, which are parallel states of being. The image of the sleeping child-god was especially popular on children's graves.

The lionskin on which Eros dozes alludes to another common theme. Eros often appeared with various attributes of the hero Herakles, such as the lionskin. These symbols of the hero's strength were used to signal the irresistible power of Eros, who, though only a child, is neither weak nor innocent.