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Identification and Creation
Object Number
1995.844.6
Title
Phallic Amulet
Classification
Amulets
Work Type
amulet
Date
1st-3rd century CE
Places
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World, Europe
Period
Roman Imperial period
Culture
Roman
Persistent Link
https://hvrd.art/o/304362
Physical Descriptions
Medium
Copper alloy
Technique
Cast, lost-wax process
Dimensions
1.7 x 3.3 x 0.9 cm (11/16 x 1 5/16 x 3/8 in.)
Technical Details

Technical Observations: The greenish-black patina is brown in the more worn areas. The surface is very finely pitted overall.

The object was cast in one piece. There is not much evidence indicating whether the model was modeled directly or indirectly. The loop and the end of the phallus are slightly faceted as a result of cold working.


Francesca G. Bewer (submitted 2012)

Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Gift of David and Genevieve Hendin
Accession Year
1995
Object Number
1995.844.6
Division
Asian and Mediterranean Art
Contact
am_asianmediterranean@harvard.edu
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Descriptions

Published Catalogue Text: Ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern Bronzes at the Harvard Art Museums
This amulet consists of a simple, stylized phallus and testicles with a large, irregular suspension loop (1). The irregular spherical testicles extend perpendicularly from the phallus; in this case, the head of the phallus is not indicated. It is flat on the underside and tapers from testicles to tip. Due to the placement of the loop, when worn the phallus would point outward, away from the wearer and toward any viewer, perhaps increasing its apotropaic power.

Phallic amulets could have decorated a variety of objects, from horse trappings to lamps (2). Their symbolism provided them with an apotropaic, protective function (3).

NOTES:

1. Compare British Museum, London, inv. nos. 1814,704.1230-31 and 1814,0704.1235; Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, inv. no. Fr. 1342; M. Kohlert-Németh, Römische Bronzen 1: Aus Nida-Heddernheim, Götter und Dämonen, Archäologische Reihe 11 (Frankfurt am Main, 1988) 67, nos. 3-4; B. Borell, Statuetten, Gefässe und andere Gegenstände aus Metall, Katalog der Sammlung antiker Kleinkunst des Archäologischen Instituts der Universität Heidelberg 3.1 (Mainz, 1989) 143-44, no. 169, pl. 55; and A. Kaufmann-Heinimann, Die römischen Bronzen der Schweiz 5: Neufunde und Nachträge (Mainz, 1994) no. 336.

2. P. M. Allison, The Insula of the Menander at Pompeii 3: The Finds (Oxford, 2006) 33. For lamps, see L. Pirzio Biroli Stefanelli, ed., Il bronzo dei Romani: Arredo e suppellettile (Rome, 1990) 190 and 270, no. 55, figs. 161-62, where a triple amulet is part of an elaborate hanging lamp, which also includes several bells and an ithyphallic figurine.

3. See Kohlert-Németh 1988 (supra 1) 66-67.


Lisa M. Anderson

Subjects and Contexts

Ancient Bronzes

Related Works

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 am_asianmediterranean@harvard.edu