During the Roman period, apes were kept as pets but also for amusement. In some cases, they were trained and displayed in public. There was an increasing demand for exotic animals leading to thousands of animal deaths with in a year just from inside the amphitheatres alone. According The Historia Augusta, Emperor Antonius Pius would hold many games with animals such as crocodiles, rhinoceros, elephants, lions and more to perform. Specific gladiators, Bestiarii, were solely trained to kill wild beasts. To some it was seen as the lowest rank of gladiators, usually as a punishment, however some people would voluntarily take on the role. Usually the Bestiarii were unarmed with little clothing to protect against the animals. These animals were imported, mainly from North Africa, and therefore they were unique only making them more desired for entertainment.
Roman Bronze Baboon Statuette
A fine Roman baboon statuette cast from bronze featuring the animal seated with its legs bent and its arms resting down by its side. The right hand is holding onto the right foot. The anatomical features are rendered naturalistically including its large, round body, long muzzle and small ears. Small indentations cover the body imitating the fur. The statuette is mounted on a custom-made stand.
Provenance: The Ancient Menagerie Collection’ formerly the property of a Cambridgeshire lady, collected since the 1990s and acquired from auctions and dealers throughout Europe and the USA, now ex London collection.
Condition: Fine condition, left hand and foot now missing. Encrustation and patination are visible across the surface. Measurements of the statuette itself; 3.5cm height, 2.5cm width