Statue of a Baboon


About this object

Sculpture of a baboon made of grey spotted marble with a 18th century bronze composite floral feature on the head. The baboon represented the god Thoth in Egyptian religion but it is not clear what the meaning of the god would be for the Romans. Roman rejected the worship of animals and it could be that statues like this were used to adorn the cult places of Egyptian deities, emphasising the exotic origin of the gods. The statue is typical of objects imported to Rome, or made there, after the conquest of Egypt in 30 BC. This baboon has a Roman appearance and is a Roman made copy ('Egyptianizing') of an Egyptian baboon, probably made in the 2nd century AD or later. Black or grey stone was used for Roman copies of Egyptian works. The Egyptian examples were representations of baboons based on observation from nature and they were very different to the Ince example.The bronze lotus was probably added at a later date although it was known as an attribute from Roman Hadrianic times. A more typical attribute would be a lunar disc.

The statue is typical of the many different versions of the subject: the baboon sits squarely on his bottom with the front paws resting on his bend hind legs. His pose is frontal. The paws and tail are in relief, the facial features have minimal modelling and the baboon's mane is only a line across the back and front leg looking like a thin cape rather than a mane. The cuts in which the lilly has been fixed on the heat are not very deep.

Many examples of baboons have been discovered in Rome and Beneventum indicating that they were often used in Isiac sanctuaries in Rome.

Restorations include the front of the muzzle, the right brow and part of the left, front right paw, the knee and a small bit of the chest, the front of the plinth, the right hind paw and a fragment of the left. The bronze lily at the top of the head is modern but it is a common attribute for Roman baboons from Hadrianic times. Due to some of the restorations on the face the baboon looks more like a human especially because of the anthropoid lidded eyes and fingers and toes with manicured nails.

Object specifics

  • Type
  • Culture
  • Artist/Maker
  • Place made
    Europe: Southern Europe: Italy: Rome
  • Date made
    2nd Century AD later
  • Materials
  • Location
    World Museum, Level 1, Treasure House Theatre
  • Acquisition
    Gift of Col. Joseph W Weld, 1959
  • Collector
    Henry Blundell
  • Place collected
    Europe: Southern Europe: Italy: Rome
  • Date collected
  • Measurements
    455 mm x 330 mm x 310 mm
  • Note
    Howard identified an engraving of a baboon in Cavaceppi's Raccolta but it is different to the Ince example: the Cavaceppi piece is made of basalt rather bigio antico (black marble) and may relate to a piece in a private collection.
  • Related people
    Henry Blundell ( Collector, previous owner); Ciriaco Mattei ( Previous owner); Giuseppe Mattei ( Previous owner); Joseph William Weld ( Previous owner)

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Previous owners

  • Joseph William Col Sir Weld

    Owned from: 1958
    How acquired: By descent
    Owned until: 1959
    Disposal method: Donation
  • Henry Blundell

    Owned from: Unknown or unrecorded
    How acquired: Purchased
    Owned until: 1810
    Disposal method: Bequest
  • Giuseppe Mattei

    Owned from: Unknown or unrecorded
    How acquired: Unknown or unrecorded
    Owned until: Unknown or unrecorded
    Disposal method: Unknown or unrecorded
  • Ciriaco Mattei

    Owned from: Unknown or unrecorded
    How acquired: Unknown or unrecorded
    Owned until: 1614
    Disposal method: Unknown or unrecorded
Object view = Humanities
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