Photo © President and Fellows of Harvard College
Identification and Creation
Object Number
Seated Musician
Work Type
sculpture, statuette
5th-6th century
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World, Africa, Egypt (Ancient)
Byzantine period, Early
Persistent Link
Physical Descriptions
Mixed copper alloy
Cast, lost-wax process
5.5 cm (2 3/16 in.)
Technical Details

Chemical Composition: ICP-MS/AAA data from sample, Mixed Copper Alloy:
Cu, 73.11; Sn, 3.67; Pb, 15.09; Zn, 7.32; Fe, 0.45; Ni, 0.07; Ag, 0.09; Sb, 0.06; As, 0.15; Bi, less than 0.025; Co, less than 0.005; Au, less than 0.01; Cd, less than 0.001
J. Riederer

Technical Observations: This object is in fair and stable condition. It is moderately corroded, and there are compact patches of green corrosion products. The patina is green. The edges of the base have been reduced with modern rotary grinding tool. The figure was solid lost-wax cast. Linear demarcation of hair and fingers appears to have been modeled in the wax. The wax model may have been assembled from three sections: the musical instrument, the figure, and the chair.

Tony Sigel (submitted 1999)

From the collection of Nelson Goodman, who acquired it in New York in the 1960s.
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, David M. Robinson Fund
Accession Year
Object Number
Asian and Mediterranean Art
The Harvard Art Museums encourage the use of images found on this website for personal, noncommercial use, including educational and scholarly purposes. To request a higher resolution file of this image, please submit an online request.

Published Catalogue Text: Ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern Bronzes at the Harvard Art Museums
This small, seated figure holds a long, stringed musical instrument in front. The period in which it was made is unclear. The face is simply rendered with a bulbous nose and circular eyes. The figure’s mouth may be rendered open, perhaps to indicate singing. The edge of the base has been reduced with a modern rotary grinding tool.

Simply formed figures of this type are often labeled Coptic. The Harvard musician may have belonged to a larger composition, as indicated by a small copper alloy model temple on top of which are seated five musicians that are very similar to the Harvard piece, and at least one also plays a stringed instrument (1). Other similar unassociated Coptic musicians were known previously in Berlin (2). The Harvard piece is similar in scale and modeling to a small statuette purchased in Egypt of a woman holding a mirror (3) and to Coptic statuettes in Cairo (4). A similar seating arrangement and oversized hands are also seen in a piece in the Benaki Museum, Athens (5).


1. See Aegyptische Kunst: Auktion 46, Münzen und Medaillen (Basel), April 28, 1972, lot 154, with additional comparanda. See H. Mahboubian, Art of Ancient Iran: Copper and Bronze (London, 1997) 272-73, no. 352, for a single figure playing a stringed instrument seated atop a censer.

2. See J. Strzygowski, Hellenistische und koptische Kunst in Alexandria (Vienna, 1902) 51, figs. 37-41.

3. L. Török, Coptic Antiquities 1 (Rome, 1993) 18, no. C 8, pl. 5.

4. See the figure on a handle of a pan in J. Strzygowski, Catalogue général du Musée du Caire des antiquités égyptiennes: Koptische Kunst (Vienna, 1904) 278, no. 9101, pl. 31.

5. D. Fotopoulos and A. Delivorrias, Greece at the Benaki Museum, transl. J. Leatham (Athens, 1997) 204, fig. 342.

Anne L. McClanan

Exhibition History

32Q: 3620 University Study Gallery, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/17/2014 - 02/13/2015

Early Christian Africa: Arts of Transformation, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 08/31/2019 - 01/05/2020

Subjects and Contexts

Ancient Bronzes

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