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Roman Sculptor
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Roman Sculptor

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40 - 100. White marble.
Galería Jónica Planta Principal Norte

Represented in high relief at half life-size, this bull trots to the right in front of a thin wall that offers additional support to his legs. His scapulae are realistically rendered, as are his hip joints and tendons, which stand out and structure his heavy body in a varied manner. His head is too small. Originally inclined, it offered a less humanized gaze than it does now. The remains of color on his jowls suggest that the marble was originally colored reddish brown.

Cattle have been the subject of figurative art since ancient times, when they frequently took the form of votive representations or funerary monuments. It was also common to represent the courtship of male and female animals intended to be sacrificed on the altars of the gods. The present sculpture is not free standing. Instead, it is carved in high relief, indicating that it was unquestionably intended for use in an architectural setting. The animal’s underfed appearance alludes to the poverty of country life, a subject often addressed in bucolic Hellenic and Roman art as the Romans associated it with the primitive yet joyful lives of their forefathers, and of shepherds Romulus and Remus. That would imply that this relief does not represent a sacrificial animal. A century ago, W. Amelung described other reliefs of this type at the Palazzo dei Conservatori, which is now the Museo Centrale Montemartini in Rome. These were a cow, an ox and two fragments of shepherds, as well as a complete third figure of a shepherd at the Uffizzi in Florence.

According to the most recent study, the present work and another at the Museo del Prado (number E00111) are replicas. The fact that all of these reliefs were probably created at the same time suggests they belonged to the same monument. The scarcity of available elements makes it difficult to precisely date these animals beyond the first imperial period, but they may orginially have belonged to Nero’s Domus Aurea, which had a garden with a bucolic program that may have extended as far as the Lacus Pastorum, close to where these statues were discovered.

Schröder, Stephan F., Catálogo de la escultura clásica: Museo del Prado, Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado, 2004, p.324-328


Technical data

Related artworks

Vaca en altorrelieve
White marble, 20 a.C. - 60
Inventory number
Roman Sculptor
40 - 100 (Ca.)
White marble
Height: 80 cm; Width: 131 cm; Base/bottom: 34 cm; Weight: 341 Kg
Colección Cristina de Suecia
Royal Collection (Collection of Cristina de Suecia; Collection of Livio Odescalchi; Collection of Felipe V, Palace of La Granja de San Ildefonso).

Bibliography +

Ponz, Antonio, Viage de España. Vol. I, X, Joachin Ibarra, Madrid, 1781, pp. carta 5.

Hübner, Emil, Die Antiken Bildwerke in Madrid, Druck Und Verlag Von Georg Reimer, Berlín, 1862, pp. 160.

Barrón, Eduardo, Catálogo de la escultura. Museo Nacional de Pintura y Escultura., Imprenta y fototipia J. Lacoste, Madrid, 1908, pp. 29, lám. V, n.6.

Ricard, Robert, Marbres Antiques du Musee du Prado a Madrid, Feret & Fils, Burdeos, 1923, pp. 114.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Catálogo de la escultura, Madrid, 1957, pp. 18.

Blanco, Antonio; Lorente, Manuel, Catálogo de la escultura. Museo del Prado, Patronato Nacional de Museos, Madrid, 1981, pp. nº6.

Chapa Brunet, Teresa, Influjos griegos en la escultura zoomorfa ibérica, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones, Madrid, 1986, pp. 87, 144.

Schröder, Stephan F., Catálogo de la escultura clásica: Museo del Prado, II, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2004, pp. 324-328.

Corona y arqueología en el Siglo de las Luces, Patrimonio Nacional, 2010, pp. 85-93.

Elvira Barba, Miguel Angel, Las esculturas de Cristina de Suecia: un tesoro de la Corona de España, Real Academia de Historia, Madrid, 2011, pp. 40,76 / 116.

Other inventories +

Inv. Real Museo, Sección Escultura, 1857. Núm. 337.
337. Un toro de marmol de Genova. / altura 2 pies, 8 pulg.

Inscriptions +

X [sobre la pata del toro]
Cross of Burgundy or Cross of Saint Andrew, collection’s mark belonging to Felipe V. On the front

337 [parcialmente borrada]
Inscribed in red color. Inside

Inscribed in black. Plinth

Location +

Galería Jónica Planta Principal Norte (On Display)

Update date: 21-05-2022 | Registry created on 28-04-2015

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