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Identification and Creation

Object Number
Work Type
statuette, sculpture
8th century BCE
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World, Europe, Olympia (Elis)?
Geometric period
Persistent Link


Level 3, Room 3400, Ancient Mediterranean and Middle Eastern Art, Ancient Greece in Black and Orange
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Physical Descriptions

Cast, lost-wax process
7.3 x 10.9 cm (2 7/8 x 4 5/16 in.)
Technical Details

Chemical Composition: ICP-MS/AAA data from sample, Bronze:
Cu, 93.38; Sn, 5.07; Pb, 0.56; Zn, 0.002; Fe, 0.13; Ni, 0.23; Ag, 0.03; Sb, less than 0.02; As, 0.59; Bi, less than 0.025; Co, 0.014; Au, less than 0.01; Cd, less than 0.001
J. Riederer

Technical Observations: The patina is green and dark green over a thin layer of red. Four holes near the tail at the back are the result of porosity caused by bubbles trapped in the metal during casting.

The ox is a solid cast. The modeling of the eyes, horns, and other small features is soft in texture and was done directly in the wax model using added bits of wax. It is likely that the entire model was made directly in the wax. Fine raised lines on the bottom between the legs are not mold lines. Rather, they appear to be ridges where metal flowed into fine cracks in the investment used to cast the bronze.

Henry Lie (submitted 2002)

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, The Lois Orswell Collection
Accession Year
Object Number
Asian and Mediterranean Art

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Published Catalogue Text: Ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern Bronzes at the Harvard Art Museums
The long, thick neck supports this animal’s heavy head, which looks forward. Long horns sweep sideways and curve upward at the tips from their position on the poll of the head. The muzzle is short. The eyes are applied dots and the nostrils are impressed pits. The wide, incised mouth gives the impression of being open. A short jaw joins the heavy throat and neck. The neck is pinched into a sharp edge extending from the throat to between the front legs. The back and hindquarters are very long, supported by stubby, splaying legs tapered to rounded points. The thick tail hangs halfway to the ground, like an undocked sheep’s tail. The absence of genitalia suggests that this is an ox, rather than a bull.

Almost all known Geometric period bronze cattle votives come from either Kabirion in Boiotia or Olympia, which has yielded the majority (1). In style and technique, this ox has affinities with animal figurines of the Argive-Olympian bronze-casting school, which remained active at Olympia from the late ninth century to the end of the seventh century BCE (2).


1. On the Elean school of figurine production at Olympia, see J.-L. Zimmermann, Les chevaux de bronze dans l’art géométrique grec (Mainz, 1989) 86-90, pls. 12-16; on cattle, see esp., 87 n.196 and 310 n.16. On bronze casting at Olympia, see T. Andrews, Bronzecasting at Geometric Period Olympia and Early Greek Metals Sources (Ph.D. diss., Brandeis University, 1994) 60-134. For Bronze cattle figurines at the Kabirion sanctuary in Boeotia, see B. Schmalz, Metallfiguren aus dem Kabirenheiligtum bei Theben: Die Statuetten aus Bronze und Blei (Berlin, 1980) 11-44, nos. 1-126, pls. 1-6.

2. On the Argive-Olympian workshop at Olympia, see W.-D. Heilmeyer, Frühe olympische Bronzefiguren: Die Tiervotive, Olympische Forschungen 12 (Berlin, 1979) 73-86, pls. 28-49.

Tamsey Andrews and David G. Mitten

Publication History

  • Marjorie B. Cohn and Sarah Kianovsky, Lois Orswell, David Smith, and Modern Art, exh. cat., Harvard University Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 2002), p. 364, cat. no. 306.

Exhibition History

  • Lois Orswell, David Smith, and Modern Art, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 09/21/2002 - 02/16/2003
  • 32Q: 3400 Greek, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 10/03/2023 - 01/01/2050

Subjects and Contexts

  • Ancient Bronzes

Verification Level

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