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Identification and Creation
Object Number
Kneeling Shepherd with Sheep
Work Type
sculpture, statuette
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World, Europe, Sardinia
Persistent Link
Physical Descriptions
Mixed copper alloy
Cast, lost-wax process
13 x 7.1 x 4.7 cm (5 1/8 x 2 13/16 x 1 7/8 in.)
Technical Details

Chemical Composition: ICP-MS/AAA data from sample, Mixed Copper Alloy:

Cu, 78.03; Sn, 2.57; Pb, 3.82; Zn, 14.56; Fe, 0.42; Ni, 0.41; Ag, 0.02; Sb, 0.17; As, less than 0.10; Bi, less than 0.025; Co, less than 0.005; Au, less than 0.01; Cd, 0.004

J. Riederer

Chemical Composition: XRF data from Artax 1
Alloy: Brass
Alloying Elements: copper, zinc
Other Elements: tin, iron, nickel
K. Eremin, January 2014

Chemical Composition: XRF data from Artax 2
Alloy: Mixed copper alloy
Alloying Elements: copper, tin, zinc
Other Elements: lead, iron, nickel, silver, antimony, arsenic

K. Eremin, June 2015

Chemical Composition:
Lead Isotope Analysis (Pb, 3.82%):

Pb206/Pb204, 18.05962; Pb207/Pb204, 15.61878; Pb208/Pb204, 38.07377; Pb, 207/Pb206, 0.86485; Pb 208/Pb206, 2.10823; Pb208/Pb207, 2.43769

P. Degryse

Technical Observations: The patina is green and light green, with areas of black and spots of red. Brown burial accretions are also present. The corrosion layer is up to 1.5 mm thick in some areas but thin in others. The red cuprite layer typical of ancient copper alloys is often not present under the green layer. However, there is a continuous, thin layer of red within the very thick corrosion layers at the sheep’s front hooves. This deep, clear layering is reasonable indication of long-term burial.

The thick, uneven corrosion layer obscures the detailed character of the surface. The bottom surface of the bottom post is cut off, and there are file marks from smoothing it. This was probably done at the same time as the addition of the modern mounting pin.

The bronze is solid and was cast from a model made directly in wax. Some details, such as the fingers, hair, and eyebrows, were probably enhanced by cold working.

Henry Lie (submitted 2012)

Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Samuel H. Lindenbaum
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 bareheaded man kneels holding an upside-down trussed ram in his outstretched arms. The man appears to be balding or has a shaved tonsure. He may have a fringe of hair above the eyebrows; he also has sideburns in front of his large, circular modeled ears and locks of straight hair depicted on the back of the head. The eyebrows are large and full, with diagonal lines to indicate hair. The eyes are raised knobs; the nose is prominent and triangular and is much thicker than that of the Sardinian archer in Harvard’s collection, 1952.30—with modeled lips and a simple, narrow chin. The neck is long and proportionately thick. He has narrow shoulders; his curving, unmuscular arms are held away from his body, bent at the elbows and held out, grasping the fore- and hindquarters of the ram with large, long-fingered hands. The torso curves, rather than bends, at the waist, away from the ram and down to the knees; the feet are simply rendered, with some attempt to indicate the toes, which are realistically slightly curved to accommodate the kneeling position. The shepherd wears some kind of tube-like covering on his calves with a raised band at the top and bottom. It is unclear if these are boots or merely leg coverings. His main clothing is somewhat confused: he either wears a short, one shouldered tunic with a double hem, or a short-sleeved tunic with a shorter, one-shouldered tunic over it. The line all the way around the neck supports the former rather than the latter. Over his tunic or tunics, he wears a thick band or baldric that binds what appears to be a version of the typical Sardinian dagger to his back, which is an unusual location. The shepherd is connected to a U-shaped support, forked at each end where it attaches to his knees and feet.

The ram is modeled in the round and is not typical of the other known Sardinian rams (1). It has two curving horns, a lean body, and a small tail. The fore and hind hooves are bound, as shown by bands rendered above the man’s fists. There are faint bands visible on the neck and back of the ram that might be a very simple representation of wool.

Several issues with this object seem to indicate that it is not actually ancient. The only other extant kneeling Sardinian bronze is a part of the wrestler group at the Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Cagliari (2). In fact, Harvard’s shepherd seems to be a copy of the kneeling wrestler in Cagliari, although with slight variations, such as the placement of the daggers on the two pieces. The Cagliari wrestler wears his dagger on the front of his torso, as does 1952.30, while Harvard’s shepherd wears his on his back, which is a decidedly non-typical placement. The Cagliari wrestler also has slightly different leggings, and his feet are not connected to a U-shaped support, which seems to be unique to the Harvard bronze. Groups of shepherds carrying sheep are known, but they typically show the sheep draped over the shoulders of the standing man (3), making the hold and body position of this bronze unique for a shepherd group. Additionally, none of the known shepherds is depicted wearing daggers at all. Finally, of the 129 Sardinian copper alloy objects published by M. S. Balmuth and R. H. Tykot in 2002, only one other object aside from the Harvard bronze contains a significant amount of zinc (J. Paul Getty Museum, inv. no. 75.AK.110, which has 2.53% zinc), making the 15% zinc detected in two separate samples of the Harvard piece quite suspicious (4).

If the Harvard bronze is fake, the human portion was probably inspired by the wrestler group in Cagliari but was modified to put a ram in the place of the other wrestler. At this point, there is nothing clearly indicating it may be a pastiche. Overall, the metallurgical, art historical, and technical observations point to this object being either entirely or almost entirely a modern fake.


1. Compare the rams, deer, and mufflons in G. Lilliu, Sculture della Sardegna nuragica (Cagliari, 1966) 334-42, nos. 216-26.

2. Lilliu 1966 (supra 1) 56-57, no. 10.

3. J. Thimme, ed., Kunst und Kultur Sardiniens vom Neolithikum bis zum Ende der Nuraghenzeit, exh. cat., Badisches Landesmuseum Karlsruhe; Museum für Vor- und Frühgeschichte der Staatlichen Museen Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Berlin (Karlsruhe, 1980) 389-90, nos. 129-31.

4. See Chemical Composition, and M. S. Balmuth and R. H. Tykot, “Recipes for Sardinian Bronzes,” in From the Parts to the Whole: Acta of the 13th International Bronze Congress, held at Cambridge, Massachusetts, May 28 - June 1, 1996, eds. C. C. Mattusch, A Brauer, and S. E. Knudsen (Portsmouth, RI, 2002) 2: 20-26. The Harvard group was analyzed by J. Riederer in 1979, when it was part of a private collection, and again in 2002.

Lisa M. Anderson

Publication History

Miriam S. Balmuth and Robert H. Tykot, "Recipes for Sardinian bronzes", From the Parts to the Whole: Acta of the 13th International Bronze Congress, ed. Carol C. Mattusch, Amy Brauer, and Sandra E. Knudsen, Journal of Roman Archaeology (Portsmouth, RI, 2000), Vol. 2, 19-26, p. 21-22, no. 3, fig. 3.

Subjects and Contexts

Ancient Bronzes

Related Works

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