Appliqués such as this example, would have likely served as a part of a vessel or a piece of furniture. It was a custom for the Ancient Romans, especially among the wealthier classes, to have highly decorated everyday life objects, such as jewellery boxes or toiletries tables. The subject of such decorations could vary between portraits of women, to depictions of gods, or natural elements and animals.
Bulls were a common depiction is Roman art. They were, like other Classical cultures, a symbol of power and fertility. They were also amongst the animals most frequently slaughtered as a sacrificial victim. This practise was associated from the 2nd century AD to the great Mother goddess, to protect the people and the State. Within mythology, the bull was also heavily associated with the mystic cult of Mithras. The imagery of a bull being slaughtered by Mithras, known as a ‘tauroctony’, was synonymous with the cult’s identity.
For more information about the meanings of animals in Roman art, see our relevant blog post: Animal Symbolism in Roman Art.