Greece, Geometric period, ca. 8th century BCE. A simple and suggestive abstract figure of a bull with a long tail, large phallus, long legs and face, and twin horns curved inward towards each other. Animals were very popular motifs in the Geometric period, and small bronze figures were given as votive offerings at temples. Bull figures, like this one, were given as offerings at the Temple of Zeus of Olympia. See a similar figure at the Walters Art Museum. Size: 2.25" L x 1.6" H (5.7 cm x 4.1 cm)
We look to the Geometric period (ca. 900 to 700 BCE) for the roots of Classical Greek civilization as well as the mythos that much of Western culture is built upon: this was when Homer composed the Iliad and the Odyssey, and when graves full of rich and rare metal objects alongside the monumental kraters that served as grave markers told the story of warriors riding into battle in chariots for heroic (or sometimes villainous) rulers. Beyond the world of warfare and kings, the common people engaged in a difficult agricultural cycle whose vagaries led people to worship at the cults of outsized and often capricious gods. Artistic figures like this one show a strong command of form and shape, and the ability of artists at this time to create instantly recognizable representations with simple forms. The market for votive figures shows that farmers placed their trust - or at least felt it was a worthwhile investment to do so - in praying to the gods for help.
Provenance: Ex-Sieling collection, Virginia
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