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Home > Auctions > 24th November 2020 > Roman Asclepius God of Medicine Statuette

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LOT 0071

GBP (£) 4,000 - 6,000
EUR (€) 4,410 - 6,610
USD ($) 5,190 - 7,780

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£3,600 (EUR 3,965; USD 4,670) (+bp*)

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Roman Asclepius God of Medicine Statuette

1st-3rd century AD

A bronze statuette of the Roman god of medicine, Asclepius or Aesculapius, modelled standing wearing a himation; his broad shoulders and torso are exposed and he holds one hand on his hip, while the other is held in a gripping position in front of his body; full, tightly-curled head of hair bound by a fillet, tightly curled beard; detail to openwork shoes and feet, clothing, torso and face, including on the reverse; mounted on a custom-made stand. 292 grams total, 15.5cm including stand (6"). Very fine condition.

Property of a London gentleman; acquired on the London art market in the 2000s; this lot has been checked against the Interpol Database of stolen works of art and is accompanied by AIAD certificate number no.10137-167408.
Cf. Rolland, H., Bronzes Antiques de Haute Provence, Paris, 1965, item 451, for a very similar type; cf. Eisenberg, J., Art of the Ancient World, 2009, no. 45, for a very similar example dated to the 1st century AD; cf. The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Statuette of Asklepios, accession no. 01.7484, dated circa 2nd century AD, for a similar example.
This figure would once have held a staff with a snake coiled around its length. The ancient Roman god of medicine, Asclepius, was identified with the Greek god Asklepios. The staff of Asclepius symbolises the sanitary arts, while the nature of the snake as a skin-shedding creature symbolised rebirth and fertility. Some scholars have hypothesised that, at one time, the symbol represented a worm coiled around a stick. Parasitic worms such as the 'Guinea worm', Dracunculus medinensis, were common in ancient times, and were extracted from under the skin by slowly rolling them around a stick. This sculpture is probably based upon the cult statue at Epidaurus, the centre for the worship of Asklepios. Born a mortal and later educated by the centaur Cheiron, Asklepios became so skilled in the art of medicine that he was said to be able to raise the dead. Zeus slew him with a thunderbolt for this very reason. Following his death, at the command of Apollo and the Moirai Fates, Asklepios was returned from Hades and apotheosized into a god. The pose and drapery largely conform to the Hellenistic types of fourth and third century BC marble sculptures erected in the sanctuaries to Asklepios. Small-scale statuettes such as this one were offered as votives of thanks or in the hope of cures at healing sanctuaries through the Hellenistic and Roman periods.