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A woman stands in an active pose.

A woman stands with a bird roosted on her head. One of her legs is bent toward the other, angling her torso in a way that looks playful. Both of her arms are bent, and her right arm seems to be offering the viewer a small square piece of fabric or paper, and her other hand is raised, palm up, in a carefree gesture. The carving is in low relief, not heavily detailed, and the surface is a polished brown tone.

Identification and Creation

Object Number
Aphrodite Wearing a Bird Headdress
Work Type
sculpture, statuette
2nd-3rd century CE
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World, Africa, Egypt (Ancient)
Roman Imperial period, Middle
Persistent Link


Level 3, Room 3700, Ancient Mediterranean and Middle Eastern Art, Roman Art
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Physical Descriptions

Leaded bronze
Cast, lost-wax process
14.8 x 7.4 x 4 cm (5 13/16 x 2 15/16 x 1 9/16 in.)
Technical Details

Chemical Composition: ICP-MS/AAA data from sample, Leaded Bronze:
Cu, 81.78; Sn, 7.3; Pb, 10.1; Zn, 0.41; Fe, 0.15; Ni, 0.05; Ag, 0.08; Sb, 0.14; As, less than 0.10; Bi, less than 0.025; Co, less than 0.01; Au, less than 0.01; Cd, less than 0.001
J. Riederer

Technical Observations: The statuette features a brown patina with variegated green, brown, and red corrosion products. There are old losses to the toes and heel of the proper left foot and to the object held in the proper fight hand. There is a break through the proper right foot at the instep. The surface is abraded partly as a result of cleaning. A modern steel pin is set into the proper left foot.

The statuette is a lost-wax cast. The torso and thighs are hollow, while the arms, lower legs, and head are solid metal. The details of the facial features and hair were made in the wax model and enhanced in the metal. A small, irregular rectangular punch was used to texture the body of the headdress, and a chisel or engraving tool was used to fashion the stylized feathers of the bird’s wings. The figure’s breasts look as though they had been made by flattening two small balls of wax on her chest. The figure’s eyes preserve evidence of silvering. The x-radiograph reveals small core-pin holes in the body.

Nancy Lloyd and Francesca G. Bewer (submitted 1999, updated 2001)


Recorded Ownership History
[Blumka Gallery, New York, NY, April 26, 1969], sold; to Max Falk, New York, NY, (1969-1993), gift; to Harvard University Art Museums, 1993.

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Gift of Max Falk in memory of Joseph Ternbach
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 goddess is nude except for a headdress with a bird’s head protome. She stands in a Praxitelian S-curve: her left hip juts outward, her weight rests on her left leg, and her right knee is bent. Her breasts are indicated by simple hemispheres, and her navel is rather prominent; her torso and thighs are voluptuous. Her right arm, bent at the elbow, extends outward from her body and holds something cylindrical, possibly the remains of a wreath that is now broken (1). Her left arm, bent at the elbow, is lifted upward and holds a small sphere, probably an apple, between the thumb and index finger. Her head turns downward and to the right; her face is clearly modeled with delicate eyes, brows, nose, mouth, and chin. Her hair is parted in the center and pulled away from her face, with a lock of hair hanging down onto either shoulder. A dove or vulture head is present at the front of her flat headdress, and from the front, the curve of the headdress resembles wings (2). Feathers are indicated on the body of the cap with incised lines and punched dots.


1. Compare a very similar statuette in the British Museum, London, inv. no. 1907,0717.3, which, like the Harvard statuette, was acquired in Egypt. Compare also Musée du Caire, inv. no. 27652; Louvre, Br 44114; and Bibliotechque Nationale, inv. no. 233. See also Antiquities, Sotheby’s (New York) 7 December 2005, lot 69, for a statuette of Aphrodite holding a wreath that looks more like a flattened disc.

2. The closest comparisons typically have more elaborate headdresses and are identified as Isis; see Lexicon Iconographicum Mythologiae Classicae Isis nos. 252a-f. and Aphrodite (in per. orient.) 112, which differs from this piece only in terms of arm placement and jewelry.

Lisa M. Anderson

Publication History

  • James Cuno, ed., A Decade of Collecting: Recent Acquisitions by the Harvard University Art Museums, Harvard University Art Museums (Cambridge, Mass., Spring 2000), p. 30
  • Adrian Stähli, "Roman Bronze Statuettes: Copies of Greek Sculpture?", Ancient Bronzes through a Modern Lens: Introductory Essays on the Study of Ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern Bronzes, ed. Susanne Ebbinghaus, Harvard Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 2014), 132-45, pp. 134 and 136, fig. 6.2.
  • Susanne Ebbinghaus, ed., Ancient Bronzes through a Modern Lens: Introductory Essays on the Study of Ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern Bronzes, Harvard Art Museum/Yale University Press (Cambridge, MA, 2014), pp. 133-134, 136, fig. 6.2

Exhibition History

  • Roman Gallery Installation (long-term), Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 09/16/1999 - 01/20/2008
  • 32Q: 3700 Roman, Harvard Art Museums, 11/16/2014 - 01/01/2050

Subjects and Contexts

  • Roman Domestic Art
  • Google Art Project
  • Ancient Bronzes

Verification Level

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of Asian and Mediterranean Art at