God Neptune

This small bronze lararium figurine is a representation of Neptune, the Roman god of the seas. It follows the common model in classical iconography for the representation of this god. He is presented as a naked bearded man of middle-age, standing in a slight “contrapposto” pose, thus demonstrating the harmonious opposition of the various parts of the figure, giving it movement and breaking the earlier law of frontal presentation. The weight of the body is over the right hip and leg, with the left leg slightly bent. This sway to the right side is reinforced by a characteristic element of the god, his trident, which is now missing from the composition. This would have been held in the right hand, which is here raised and with a closed fist bored vertically through to hold this element. The trident would have rested on the lower surface and reached upward to the height of the head of the god, or perhaps even higher. A parallel effigy can be found in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. From this comparison we can conclude that the fragment held in the right hand nearer the body, and in this case partly broken, was originally a dolphin. This animal is symbolically characteristic of Neptune, for its ability to move in and dive out of the water, as can the god.

Neptune is the god of freshwater and the sea in Roman religion. He is the counterpart of the Greek god Poseidon. In the Greek-influenced tradition, Neptune is the brother of Jupiter and Pluto; the brothers preside over the realms of Heaven, the earthly world, and the Underworld. Neptune had a reputation for having a violent temper and lustful nature. Ocean storms and earthquakes were a reflection of his demeanour.

The lararium was a small shrine in Roman houses in which the family members could place offerings on an altar and offer up prayers to the household gods. These were represented by statuettes called lares, mostly made of bronze. In patrician residences the lararium was in general found in the atrium, the central hall of the residence. In a simpler residence without an atrium, the shrine would be in the kitchen near the central fire.

The technique of lost wax casting is a sculptural procedure using a mould made from a prototype of the piece to be worked, and this prototype is usually made from beeswax. This is covered with a thick layer of soft material, usually clay, which then solidifies. Once this has hardened it is put in a kiln where the wax inside melts and leaks out from expressly made holes in the clay. In its place molten metal is injected and this takes on the exact form of the mould. To remove the final piece the mould must be removed.


- Sculpture of Neptune. Bronze. Roman. 100 - 1 BC. Getty Villa Malibu, United States of America. Reference number 96.AB.151.
- Statue of Poseidon / Neptune next to the dolphin, Roman, 1st century AD. C. (after the classical Greek original), marble, Tampa Museum of Art, Joseph Veach Noble Collection 1986.135.
- Neptune with dolphins and tridents. Bronze. Roman, imperial period, centuries II-III d. C. Origin: it is believed that it was found in Gaul. Boston Museum of Fine Arts. United States of America.

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