Photo © President and Fellows of Harvard College
Gallery Text

Bronze is an alloy of copper and tin that has been used for thousands of years to make objects as diverse as sculpture and figurines, weapons and armor, and jewelry and tableware. The addition of tin and sometimes lead made the alloy more versatile and lowered its melting point; another common copper alloy is brass (copper and zinc), which was in widespread use in the Roman period. Although other materials, like stone, glass, and terracotta, were available, copper alloy items were valued for their golden sheen, versatility, and durability. The material lent prestige and beauty to objects like these statuettes, most of which would have been dedicated to the gods. Modern bronzes are often artificially patinated, like the Rodin sculpture in this colonnade. While ancient bronzes were sometimes gilded or deliberately darkened, the unaltered surfaces naturally acquired a red, green, or brown patina over time.

Identification and Creation
Object Number
Wild Boar
Work Type
late 6th century BCE
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World, Europe
Archaic period
Persistent Link
Level 3, Room 3200, Ancient Mediterranean and Middle Eastern Art, Classical Sculpture
View this object's location on our interactive map
Physical Descriptions
Leaded bronze
Cast, lost-wax process
8.7 x 14.1 x 3.5 cm (3 7/16 x 5 9/16 x 1 3/8 in.)
Technical Details

Chemical Composition: XRF data from Tracer
Alloy: Leaded Bronze
Alloying Elements: copper, tin, lead
Other Elements: iron, silver, antimony

K. Eremin, January 2014

Technical Observations: The patina is primarily exposed underlying red with some areas of green surviving. The exposed red and the deep pitting is probably the result of a partial electrolytic stripping of the original corrosion products. In spite of this, considerable surface detail has survived. The right rear foot and lower leg are lost. The three surviving legs are broken off and repaired. All three of the reattached feet are consistent in appearance with the rest of the bronze. A small amount of green paint appears to have been added to the proper left side, presumably to even out the red color resulting from the cleaning process.

The weight of the bronze indicates it is a solid cast. Although there is a line along the ridge on the back that could be taken for a mold line, it is incised rather than raised and appears to be anatomical or design-related rather than a mold line that would have indicated casting using the indirect lost-wax process. The slightly soft and irregular features in the head and elsewhere point to a direct lost-wax technique. The vertical lines in the ridge of bristles are slightly soft in their contours and appear to have been incised in the wax. The condition of the surface makes it difficult to judge, but there is probably some cold-work finishing in the face, feet, and tail.

Henry Lie (submitted 2012)

[Muenzen und Medaillen A.G., Basel, Switzerland, Auction 18, November 29, 1958, lot no. 18] sold; to Charles Gillet and Marion Schuster, Lausanne (1958-1982), by descent; to Madame Mathilde de Goldschmidt Rothschild, (1982-1989), sold; [through Sotheby’s London, July 1989, lot no. 82]. [through Gordian Weber Kunsthandel, Cologne, Germany, 2012] sold; to Harvard Art Museums.
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Alpheus Hyatt Purchasing Fund, Marian H. Phinney Fund, David M. Robinson Fund, Estate of Leo Mildenberg, and Acquisitions Fund in honor of David Gordon Mitten
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.
Represented in an alert position, almost as if stopped in its tracks, this wild boar appears to be facing an opponent, either another wild animal or, more likely, a hunter, such as Meleager. Its front legs are stretched out and the proper right legs are positioned ahead of the left ones. Perhaps the most striking feature is the ridge of long upright bristles running along the animal’s spine, with a gap at the center of the back. The pointed ears sit high on the head, the front of the snout is turned up, and the tail is curled up above the prominent scrotum. Although eyes and tusks are preserved, the now pitted surface means that it cannot be determined with certainty if the animal’s skin was once marked by stippling or hatching to indicate fur—or even a wound from a spear.

Wild boars are quite common in Greek vase painting of the late Archaic and early Classical periods, typically in hunting scenes that may reflect aristocratic pursuits of the time in general terms, or may explicitly show a mythological event, such as the hunt of the Calydonian boar involving Atalante and Meleager. In these scenes, the boar is often depicted in a pose similar to this statuette. In a number of vase images of the later sixth and fifth centuries, the boars are shown with the interrupted or at least uneven ridge of bristles on the back, which is a natural feature enhanced by stylization. Compare the band cup Harvard Art Museums 1925.30.131.

Because of the animal’s strength and fierce defense, killing a wild boar proved the hunter’s prowess, and a brave warrior could be likened to a boar, just as images of boar hunting could serve as the visual equivalents of scenes of warfare. In ancient Macedonia, young men did not acquire full adult status until after their first successful boar hunt. Representations of boars and their heads or foreparts were employed as shield devices and other decoration on armor. The heroic connotations and heraldic qualities of the beast made it suitable as an image on coins, for example on Harvard Art Museums 1972.173, a silver didrachm from Methymna on Lesbos. A number of Greek bronzes represent boars, although free-standing statuettes are quite rare. A late Archaic or early Classical example at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (10.162), once was attached to the shoulder of a large vessel. This statuette is more likely to have been freestanding, perhaps as part of a hunting group dedicated at a sanctuary.
Publication History

Karl Schefold, Meisterwerke griechischer Kunst, 18. Juni-13. September 1960: kleiner Katalog / Kunsthalle Basel, exh. cat., Benno Schwabe (Basel, Switzerland, 1960), p. 180, no. III 185; p. 183, fig. 185.

Susanne Ebbinghaus, ed., Ancient Bronzes through a Modern Lens: Introductory Essays on the Study of Ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern Bronzes, Harvard Art Museum/Yale University Press (Cambridge, MA, 2014), p. 2

Exhibition History

Meisterwerke griechister Kunst, Kunsthalle Basel, 06/18/1960 - 09/13/1960

32Q: 3200 West Arcade, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/16/2014 - 01/01/2050

Subjects and Contexts

Google Art Project

Collection Highlights

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