Ancient Roman Bronze Statuette of Priapus

£ 550.00

A small Ancient Roman bronze statuette of the fertility god Priapus. He wears a hat on his head and a long tunic, which covers his torso and conceals his arms. The god is depicted as he stands in a contrapposto stance, balancing the weight on his right leg, now deprived of the foot. He is grasping the sides of his garment, lifting it upwards to create a fold which overflows with fruit. In lifting his tunic, he reveals his erect phallus, the focal point of his depictions in Classical art. Some detailing to his facial features is still visible, including deeply-set eyes, a prominent nose, and a long beard.

Date: Circa 1st-3rd century AD
Condition: Good condition.


The worship of Priapus (Πρίαπος) seems to have originated in the Hellespontine regions, adding to the widespread tradition of reverence of phallic deities in the ancient world. One of his attributes, the Persian cap, reveals his non-Greek origin. In Greek mythology, Priapus was born from the union between Dionysus and Aphrodite or Chione. Cursed by Hera with an enormous phallus, the god is often represented in a caricature of the human form, making him a recurrent subject in Roman erotic art and literature, specifically the Carmina Priapeia.

The term ‘contrapposto’ refers to a sculptural scheme originated in Ancient Greece around the 5th century BC, in which the human figure is poised so that the weight rests on one leg, whilst the other is free and bent at the knee. The weight shift and hip tilt suggest relaxation, making the sculpture more dynamic through a subtle movement that denotes life. Such scheme presents an evolution from the Kouros (κοῦρος) sculptures, figures rendered in a static advancing stance, with the weight evenly distributed on both legs.

Weight 19.3 g
Dimensions W 2 x H 4.5 cm



Roman Mythology

Reference: For a similar item, please see The British Museum, item WITT.284

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