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Identification and Creation

Object Number
Zeus with Eagle
Work Type
statuette, sculpture
mid 5th century BCE
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World, Europe
Classical period, Early
Persistent Link

Physical Descriptions

Leaded bronze
Cast, lost-wax process
12.6 x 5.7 cm (4 15/16 x 2 1/4 in.)
Technical Details

Chemical Composition: ICP-MS/AAA data from sample, Leaded Bronze:
Cu, 67.26; Sn, 4.7; Pb, 27.88; Zn, 0.004; Fe, 0.02; Ni, 0.02; Ag, 0.02; Sb, less than 0.02; As, 0.1; Bi, less than 0.025; Co, less than 0.005; Au, less than 0.01; Cd, less than 0.001
J. Riederer

Technical Observations: The patina on the figure is green. Except for an area under the arm, there is no evidence of deep-seated corrosion. Thus, there is a possibility that the object is not ancient. There are abrasions on the stomach, buttocks, and legs from modern cleaning.

The statuette is a solid cast. The lack of detail on the surface of the figure appears to be from casting rather than from corrosion. There are many small casting flaws on the back. The missing arm and foot may also be the result of casting flaws, as both breaks are rounded.

Henry Lie (submitted 2000)

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Gift of Edward W. Forbes, Class of 1895
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 representation of a nude Zeus in striding pose lacks its left foot and right arm, which is broken off just below the shoulder. Zeus’s right leg faces diagonally outward; from the stance of his left leg, his left foot must have faced forward, originally parallel with his left arm. The left leg seems bent in such a way that the original stance of the feet seems rather awkward. His torso is massively muscled but summarily modeled. His hair is in a cap-like form with upward-rolled edges; his beard is spade-like with overhanging moustaches. His facial features are summarily rendered. No fingers or toes are depicted on his surviving extremities, except for the projecting thumb of his left hand. A small bird with spread wings, presumably an eagle, sits on the back of his outstretched left hand. His right hand, stretched out behind him, may have held a thunderbolt poised for the throw.

This statuette belongs to a number of striding representations of Zeus that begin in the Late Archaic period, including two examples from Dodona in the National Museum in Athens (1), and the larger bronze striding Zeus, perhaps a Corinthian product, in the Glyptothek in Munich (2). A larger version, really a small statue, from Ugento, is in Taranto (3). Early Classical representations also include a fine example in the Princeton Art Museum and the famous “Blue Zeus” from Dodona in Berlin (4). The entire group is closely related to the monumental bronze statue of a mature god about to hurl a missile at an opponent, recovered from the sea off Cape Artemesion, now in the National Museum in Athens (5).

This Zeus clearly comes from a mainland workshop active c. 460 to 450 BCE. Athens, Corinth, or Argos could equally well be places of origin. While the roundness of the breaks and the overall weakness of surface details raise some suspicions that the piece might be an aftercast, the general modeling of the stance and the presence of trustworthy corrosion products support the authenticity of this piece.


1. W. Schiering, Die Bronzestatuette des Zeus von Dodona (Stuttgart, 1969). For comparison, see R. Thomas, Griechische Bronzestatuetten (Darmstadt, 1992) 92, n. 167, fig. 81; Athens, National Museum, inv. no. Karapanos 31 = Lexicon Iconographicum Mythologiae Classicae Zeus no. 62d; Athens, National Museum, inv. no. X 16546 = LIMC Zeus 62c; and K. A. Neugebauer, Die griechischen Bronzen der klassischen Zeit und des Hellenismus, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Katalog der statuarischen Bronzen im Antiquarium 2 (Berlin, 1951) nos. 19-20, pl. 7.

2. G. Kopcke, “Eine Bronzestatuette des Zeus in der Münchner Glyptothek,” Münchener Jahrbuch der bildenden Kunst 27 (1976): 7-27.

3. N. Degrassi, Lo Zeus stilita di Ugento (Rome, 1981). For comparison, see G. P. Carratelli et al., Megale Hellas: Storia e civiltà della Magna Grecia (Milan, 1983) figs. 367-69; and G. P. Carratelli, ed., The Greek World: Art and Civilization in Magna Graecia and Sicily (New York, 1996) 384 and 676, no. 77.

4. Princeton University Art Museum, inv. no. 37.343; see LIMC Zeus no. 62f. For the “Blue Zeus” in Berlin, see Schiering 1969 (supra 1) and Neugebauer 1951 (supra 1) no. 3, pls. 2-3.

5. R. Lullies, Greek Sculpture (New York, 1960) pls. 130-32.

David G. Mitten

Publication History

  • Salomon Reinach, Répertoire de la statuaire grecque et romaine, Editions Ernst Leroux (Paris, 1908 - 1930), Vol. 3, p. 1, no. 6.
  • George M. A. Hanfmann, Greek Art and Life, An Exhibition Catalogue, exh. cat., Fogg Art Museum (Cambridge, MA, 1950), no. 12.
  • David Gordon Mitten and Suzannah F. Doeringer, Master Bronzes from the Classical World, exh. cat., Verlag Philipp von Zabern (Mainz am Rhein, Germany, 1967), p. 88, no. 85.
  • G. Kenneth Sams, ed., Small Sculptures in Bronze from the Classical World: An Exhibit in Honor of Emeline Hill Richardson, exh. cat., The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (Chapel Hill, NC, 1976), no. 20.
  • Lexicon Iconographicum Mythologiae Classicae (LIMC), Artemis (Zürich, Switzerland, 1999), Vol. 8, Zeus 62e.

Exhibition History

  • Greek Art and Life: From the Collections of the Fogg Art Museum, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and Private Lenders, Fogg Art Museum, 03/07/1950 - 04/15/1950
  • Master Bronzes from the Classical World, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 12/04/1967 - 01/23/1968; City Art Museum of St. Louis, St. Louis, 03/01/1968 - 04/13/1968; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, 05/08/1968 - 06/30/1968
  • Echoes from Mount Olympus: The Minor Arts of Classical Antiquity, University Art Museum, University of California at Berkeley, Berkeley
  • Small Sculptures in Bronze from the Classical World: An Exhibit in Honor of Emeline Hill Richardson, William Hayes Ackland Memorial Art Center, 03/07/1976 - 04/18/1976
  • 32Q: 3620 University Study Gallery, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 08/17/2017 - 01/07/2018

Subjects and Contexts

  • Ancient Bronzes

Verification Level

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