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Identification and Creation

Object Number
Monkey Holding a Long Spike in its Forepaws
Work Type
statuette, sculpture
6th-7th century CE
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World
Byzantine period, Early
Persistent Link

Physical Descriptions

Leaded bronze
Cast, lost-wax process
overall: h. 7.7 cm (3 1/16 in.)
spike: l. 4 cm (1 9/16 in.)
head: w. 1.2 cm (1/2 in.)
Technical Details

Chemical Composition: ICP-MS/AAA data from sample, Leaded Bronze:

Cu, 64.04; Sn, 7.62; Pb, 27.51; Zn, 0.028; Fe, 0.06; Ni, 0.07; Ag, 0.08; Sb, 0.31; As, 0.24; Bi, 0.036; Co, 0.007; Au, less than 0.02; Cd, less than 0.002

J. Riederer

Technical Observations: The patina is pale green and pale brown. The figure is missing its back feet. The figure appears to have been made from a two-part mold. Tool marks from rough finishing are preserved on the surface, especially along the top and bottom contours where the two parts of the mold would have joined.

Carol Snow (submitted 2002)


Recorded Ownership History
Nelson Goodman, Weston, MA, gift; to the Harvard University Art Museums, 1995.

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Gift of Nelson Goodman
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
This figurine originally constituted the upper part of a portable lampstand. The monkey stands upright on its hind legs and holds a sword in its forepaws. Its facial features are incised with two parallel lines for each of the eyes, a triangle for the nose, and a wide curve for the mouth. The figure is broken at the ankles and tail. The sword served as a pricket (holding spike) for a lamp; the lamp would have been formed with a hole in its bottom into which the pricket would fit, thereby allowing it to be held securely (see 1975.41.141.A-C). The monkey was originally attached to either a pedestal base or a collapsible, interlocking stand (1). A comparable sixth- to seventh-century example representing a man carrying a sword preserves its lamp, which is c. 7.62 cm long and provides an approximate size for the lamp used with this pricket (2).

The monkey is unique among preserved lampstand figurines. In all other examples, the lamp carrier is a human figure, such as a naked Dionysos carrying grapes, nude athletes, or cloaked men, presumably servants or guards (3). Although the provenance for the Harvard pricket is undocumented, other figural lampstands come from the eastern Mediterranean—Egypt, Syria, and Constantinople—and the closest stylistic parallels are dated to the sixth to seventh centuries (4).


1. Compare with other stands in which a figure holds the pricket in M. Xanthopoulou, Les lampes en bronze à l’époque paléochrétienne, Bibliothèque de l’Antiquité tardive 16 (Turnhout, 2010) 231-33, nos. CD 1.001-1.003 (pedestal base) and CD 1.007 (interlocking base).

2. Age of Spirituality: Late Antique and Early Christian Art Third to Seventh Century, exh. cat., Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, 1977) no. 320; L. Bouras and M. G. Parani, Lighting in Early Byzantium (Washington, DC, 2008) 84, no. 24; and Xanthopoulou 1997 (supra 1) 234, no. CD 1.008.

3. Age of Spirituality 1977 (supra 2) nos. 319-20; and Xanthopoulou 1997 (supra 1) 31-32 and 231-32, nos. CD 1.001-1.004 and CD 1.007-1.008.

4. Compare Age of Spirituality 1977 (supra 2) nos. 319-20; and Bouras and Parani 2008 (supra 2) 84, no. 24.

Diliana Angelova

Subjects and Contexts

  • Ancient Bronzes

Verification Level

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