Rabbit

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Free-standing sculpture of a resting rabbit or hare. The back legs are doubled-up under the belly, while the front ones are stretched forward, resting on a flat base. The work is one of great naturalism, where we can appreciate the attempt of the artisan to reflect the real characteristics of the animal, such as the coat of fur in the area of the neck. The ears, today lost, were sculpted separately to be later joined to the head, as can be seen by the hole made deliberately in the centre of the base of the ears.

The static attitude of the animal emphasises the highly stylised depiction of the figure, which can be attributed to older work, and so the work can be dated as being between the second half of the 1st century and the first half of the 2nd century AD.

On the bottom of the base we can observe a hole which joins up with another hole in the animal’s mouth. Most probably, this sculpture was part of a fountain in a domus or Roman villa where, by a system of lead plumbing, water would spurt from the mouth like a fountain.

The use of water as a luxury item and in decoration is a reflection of the social hierarchy wishing to show off their wealth and power. This led to rivalry in the creation of sumptuous spaces and decoration in their villas. With the construction of aqueducts, the domus in Rome which maintained the impluvia and compluvia and also the cisterns, but started to introduce pools, gardens and fountains as decoration. These would be smaller or more monumental. They also introduced bathing pools in the areas reserved for ablutions.

The most frequently eaten meat in the Roman period in Spain was rabbit meat. The animals were not bred in captivity but were wild hares or rabbits. Pliny even explained that the name Hispania came from the Carthaginian term i-sephan-in, meaning “land of animals”. Catullus, with equal exaggeration, alluded to the Celt-Iberian canicularium as a negative expression of the peninsula. There must be something in this, as the Emperor Hadrian, a native of Spain, had the image of a rabbit engraved on his coins.

PARALLELS:

- Hare uncovered in 1914 in the room of mosaics in the domus «Maison d’Egnatius Paulus». Musée Gallo-Romain de Lyon-Fourvière, France.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

- MALISSARD, Alain. Los romanos y el agua: La cultura del agua en la Roma antigua. Barcelona. 1996.

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