Terracotta statuettes depicting bovines have been largely recovered across Ancient Greece, usually placed as votive offerings in temples and shrines. Such statuettes would have originally been covered in white slip and then painted in different colours. Bull’s iconographies were employed as decorative motifs on jewellery, statuettes and pottery vessels as a testimony of the great benevolence the animal held in Greek society and culture. Bovines were extremely important for everyday life in Ancient Greece, especially for farming and harvesting, but held also a primary role in Greek and Roman mythology: in the myth of The Rape of Europa, the Phoenician princess Europa was seduced by the god Zeus in the form of a white bull. Another Greek deity deeply connected with the bull’s imaginary, was Dionysus, who was often depicted riding a bull. In Roman tradition depictions of bulls reflected the foreign an eastern influences on Rome and later on the Roman Empire. Bulls were represented as either the Apis bull from Ancient Egyptian culture or the sacrificial animal at the centre of the Greek-Persian cult of the god Mithras.
Hellenistic Terracotta Statuette of a Bull
A finely modelled Ancient Greek red terracotta hollow-moulded statuette depicting a bull, portrayed standing on four legs. The animal is rendered in a naturalistic manner, with much attention given to its anatomical features and muscular physique. A vertical ridge smoothly protrudes from the bull’s forelegs, sensitively representing its heavy dewlap. Traces of the original white slip still visible to the statuette’s surface.
Provenance: From the Ingrid McAlpine collection, 1939 - 2018, London and Epsom.
Condition: Fine, repaired. The piece displays signs of ageing to the surface. The piece has been mounded on a custom-made stand for display.