Statuette of the god Serapis with Cerberus

sculpture of a man with a 3 headed dog 

This statuette of the god Serapis in a throne with Cerberus, his three-headed dog, is one of the 400 items from the collections of Henry Blundell donated to World Museum in 1959.

The statuette is similar to many others, and must have derived from the cult statue of Serapis in Alexandria, a statue attributed to the 3rd century BC sculptor, Bryaxis. These statues always show the god in a frontal pose, with his left arm raised and the right outstretched, dressed in a sleeved chiton, a himation and sandals. The god also has a large face, a beard, and long hair. On his head he has the modius (grain measure) head. Recent cleaning of the statue revealed that the modius is made of alabaster rather than marble.

The three headed dog represented here is Cerberus. He is the monstrous hound that guarded the entrance to the Underworld and he is a companion of the Greek god of the underworld Hades. Serapis, or Sarapis, is a god made up during Ptolemaic Egypt combining Greek and Egyptian gods. 

This Roman copy of the Bryaxis original may have been for a private setting, perhaps a domestic shrine. Serapis was a god associated with healing and death and had a strong personal appeal. 

This statuette is on display in the new Ancient Egypt gallery at World Museum. 

  • 3rd century AD
  • Accession number 59.148.39