A ROMAN TERRACOTTA FIGURE OF AN EAGLE
Please refer to our stock # P.2011.S1 when inquiring.
c. 1st Century B.C.-2nd Century A.D.
Made in a two piece mold this figure depicts an eagle standing upright with its chest exposed and wings slightly spread, the head turned to the right, its beak slightly opened. In excellent condition this piece is extremely detailed in all its features, most notably the delineated pupils, nostrils and the demarcation of each feather. Although easier to achieve with a mold than through carving, this level of detail is nonetheless noteworthy.
The eagle has had many associations for many different cultures throughout history. In Ancient Greece it was the symbol of the deity Zeus and when the Romans amalgamated much of the Greek religion so too did they acquire the eagle as the symbol of their supreme deity, Jupiter. In addition to its religious context the eagle also found its way into other aspects of Roman life. In government, it was a symbol of the Roman Republic, and later, of the Roman Empire. In the military, it was a legionary symbol often found on standards. It is also found in various funerary contexts, and beginning with Augustus in the early 1st Century A.D., when an emperor died an eagle would be released as a symbol of his apotheosis.
Several examples similar to this piece can be found in various media throughout what was once the Roman Empire as well as in museums around the world. These include a marble Julio-Claudian funerary altar in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, a marble eagle from an aristocratic tomb can be found in the Museum of London and multiple examples in bronze, marble and intaglios can be found at The British Museum, London to name but a few.
Despite its many connections to the most elite members of society, the terracotta construction of this piece suggests that it was not made for the upper-class or the military, whom would have preferred, and could afford, an eagle produced from more costly materials like those mentioned above, but rather speaks to its place among the common man. Terracotta, in general, was reserved for the production of either disposable items, such as tableware, or for objects intended for purchase by the general public, much in the same way that silver-plate is a more accessible alternative to white-gold or platinum in jewelry production today. This accessibility was due primarily to the wide availability of the raw materials as well as the relative ease of mass production of the finished product. Although many terracotta objects were produced, only a small percentage remains due to the inherent fragility of the material. Even fewer remain in such pristine condition as this example. What makes this piece unique, therefore, is the opportunity it provides to see the marriage of an iconography which represented the high ideals of Roman society such as the role of the gods, the Emperor and the Empire itself, produced in a material which signifies its place in the households and lives of the average Roman citizen.
Dimensions: 10.25 x 7.25 inches (26.04 x 18.42 cm)
Found in the Holy Land
Worldwide shipping and Certificate of Authenticity included in price.
Export Approval from Israel Antiquities Authority.
Chalupa, Aleš, 'How Did Roman Emperors Become Gods? Various Concepts of Imperial Apotheosis' in Anodos: Studies of the Ancient World 6-7/2006-2007, 201-207.
The Metropolitan Museum, New York
The Museum of London, London
The British Museum, London