Terracotta offerings shaped as body parts, people, or even animals were brought to sanctuaries and shrines throughout the Roman Empire as a way of either giving thanks or of requesting healing from the gods. Ailments specific to one part of the body could be represented by such offerings in the shape or design of that body part; this terracotta hand therefore would have symbolised a present or past affliction of the hand. These objects were mass-produced via moulds, usually in small shops set up near or on the way to the shrine. Once left at the temple, the offering became property of the gods. Instead of being destroyed or recycled, votives were either packed into small buildings or rooms, or buried in sacred pits. This led to a large number of these objects surviving relatively unscathed.
Large Ancient Roman Terracotta Hand Votive
An extremely large hollow terracotta hand from the Roman period, with palm facing out and fingers stretched up together. The hand is anatomically correct, if somewhat exaggerated, with detail in the carving of the fingernails. This piece is an excellent example of an anatomical votive offering, an important aspect of Ancient Roman religious and medical life.
Provenance: European private collection, acquired in the 1980s.
Condition: Fine condition. The hand has been professionally repaired, and there is some wear visible, due to age.