The J. Paul Getty Museum


Object Details








Roman Empire (Place Created)


A.D. 200–250



Object Number:



175 × 53 × 35 cm (68 7/8 × 20 7/8 × 13 3/4 in.)

See more

See less

Object Description

A draped female figure representing the Roman goddess Salus stands holding a snake in one hand and in the other an egg, which she may be feeding to the snake. A small winged Cupid with curly hair sits by her feet, resting his head on his knee, sleeping. Salus’ hairstyle is a knotted bow on the top of her head, with loose tresses cascading down over both shoulders and the back of her neck. The remaining hair is gathered in a bun at the nape of her neck. Her face is softly modeled with her mouth half-open; her almond-shaped eyes have drilled, heart-shaped pupils. The goddess wears an epiblema (shawl), a chiton (loose-fitting tunic), and sandals.  

This statue is unique in that the attributes of Salus – the snake and the egg – are combined with images commonly associated with Venus (Greek Aphrodite), the goddess of love. Here Salus is accompanied by Cupid, usually a companion of Venus. Her hairstyle tied in a bow on top of her head is also characteristic of Venus. However, unlike Venus, who is often depicted nude, Salus is represented as a heavily draped goddess. It was not uncommon for Roman goddesses to use a combination of attributes from different deities. Salus was sometimes depicted with a rudder and a globe, which were typical attributes of Fortuna, the goddess of Fortune. However, this statue is the only known example in which Salus and Venus are paired together.

Salus was the Roman personification of health and well being, and came to be very closely associated with the Greek goddess Hygieia, the daughter of the healing god Asclepius. She is often represented in works of art with the same attributes as Hygeia – in particular both are frequently depicted with a snake wrapped around one arm. However, they each kept their own separate identities, and served very different functions. While both deities protected individual health, Salus was also responsible for the prosperity of the Roman state and its rulers. In this regard, she personified the security and welfare of the Roman people, and was therefore an especially important deity for the city of Rome. She had a temple and cult on the Quirinal Hill in Rome, and various representations of the goddess appeared on Imperial Roman coins. Because the Getty’s statue is close to life-size, it may have been a cult image that was set up in a public space or a temple. In this setting she would have represented public welfare. Smaller versions of Salus, however, were often set up in domestic spaces and private shrines, where an individual could offered prayers for personal health.

- 1971

Royal Athena Galleries, sold to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1971.

Selected Works from the Ancient Art Collection of the John Paul Getty Museum, Malibu, California, (May 29 to July 10, 1971)
  • Hetzel Union Gallery (State College), May 29 to July 10, 1971
Beyond Beauty: Antiquities as Evidence (December 16, 1997 to January 17, 1999)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), December 16, 1997 to January 17, 1999

Selected Works from the Ancient Art Collection of the J. Paul Getty Museum, Malibu, California, exh. cat. (University Park: The Pennsylvania State University College of Arts and Architecture, 1971), no. 25.

Vermeule, Cornelius, and Norman Neuerberg. Catalogue of the Ancient Art in the J. Paul Getty Museum (Malibu: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1973), p. 21, no. 42.

Vermeule, C. C. "Greek, Roman, and Etruscan Sculptures: The Benjamin and Lucy Rowland Collection." Burlington Magazine (July 1974), pp. 406, 409, ill. fig. 67 (cited as a comparison).

Fredericksen, Burton B., ed. The J. Paul Getty Museum: Greek and Roman Antiquities, Western European Paintings, French Decorative Arts of the Eighteenth Century (Malibu: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1975), p. 30.

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. 60.

Schauenburg, Konrad. "Portraets auf roemischen Sarkophagen." Eikones. Antike Kunst, suppl. 12 (1980), pp. 153-59, 157, n. 70.

Margoulis, S. and W. J. Showers, “Weathering Characteristics, Age and Provenance Determinations on Ancient Greek and Roman Marble Artifacts.” In N. Herz and M. Waelkens, eds., Classical Marble: Geochemistry, Technology, Trade. Proceedings of the NATO-Sponsored Advanced Workshop: Marble in Ancient Greece and Rome: Geology, Sources, Commerce, Artifacts, Il Ciocco (Italy), May 9-13, 1988 (Kluwer Academic Publishers: Dordrecht, 1988), p. 238, table 3.

Margolis, S., F. Preusseur, and W. Showers, “Ancient Marble Sculpture: Geochemical Characterization of Surficial Weathering Products,” Material Research Society Proceedings. Vol. 123 (1988), p. 56, table 1.

Croissant, F. "Hygieia." In Lexicon Iconographicum Mythologiae Classicae V (1990), pp. 554-72, p. 563, no. 129; pl. 390.

Lochin, Catherine. "Hypnos/Somnus." Lexicon Iconographicum Mythologiae Classicae V (1990), pp. 591-609, p. 605, no. 149; pl. 390.

Margolis, Stanley, and William Showers. "Ancient Greek and Roman Marble Sculpture: Authentication, Weathering, and Provenance Determination," Marble. Art Historical and Scientific Perspectives on Ancient Sculpture. Papers Delivered at a Symposium at the J. Paul Getty Museum, April 28-30, 1988, pp. 283-299. Malibu: 1990, pp. 283-99, table 4; fig. 9.

Sobel, H. Hygieia: Die Göttin der Gesundheit (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1990), p. 96, no. 7 (cited without inv. no).

de Luca, Goia. "Zur Hygieia in Pergamon." Istanbuler Mitteilungen 41 (1991), pp. 325-62, 361, cat. B 3 (cited without accession number; wrong page and wrong cat. no. referred to in C. C. Vermeule, Catalogue of Ancient Art in the J. Paul Getty Museum).

Education Resources
Education Resources

Education Resource




Ancient Greek & Roman Talk Show

Lesson in which students research and study artworks that depict Greek and Roman deities and present a mock TV talk show with the deities.

Visual Arts; English–Language Arts; History–Social Science

6-8; 9-12

Three/Five-Part Lesson