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  • image L72

Statuette of Jupiter Serapis



Height: 37cm
Height (excluding pedestal and base): 26cm

Museum number: L72

Vermeule catalogue number: Vermeule 430help-vermeule-catalogue-number

Curatorial note

The Aegypto-Hellenistic divinity stands with weight on the left foot and clad in a long himation, the ample folds of which are draped about his lower limbs, over the left arm, and over the left shoulder, leaving chest and stomach bare. He carries in his right hand the lorum or reins and in his left the compes or fetters; on his head appears the kalathos or basket. The facial features are of the bearded, Hellenistic type, made well known by the features of the seated cult statue from the Serapeum in Alexandria and the prototypes of a number of separated heads or busts which also survive in innumerable copies from Rome and elsewhere1.

In his MSS catalogue of the Renaissance and later bronzes in the Soane Museum, Sir John Summerson notes: "A nearly identical figure was in the Disney Collection2, the only variation being in some ornament engraved on the calathus. According to Disney, his bronze was acquired at Dr. Mead's sale in 1755 but the Sale Catalogue in the British Museum shows that this was not the case."

Adolf Michaelis3 divided the types of the standing Seraphis into the following groupings, using the evidences of statuettes, reliefs, and mainly Alexandrine coins of the earlier Imperial period, (if he saw the Soane bronze on his visit to the House and Museum, he failed to mention it in either Ancient Marbles4 or in the article cited here):
First type: sceptre, and altar beside, which is a standing version of the aforementioned seated cult type sometimes attributed to Bryaxis or his style5.
Second type: right hand raised and also with sceptre. This figure, best exemplified by the bronze in the Museo Archeologico, Florence, was popular in the Empire, especially on coins of the third Century.
Third type: left arm raised, right hanging down. While not found on coins, this type, known mainly from bronze statuettes in Dresden and Berlin, seems to be a variant of the first type and represents its unoriented statuary counterpart. The Soane statuette is a variant of this and to a more distant extent, the following type.
Fourth type: On a billion Tetradrachm of Tranquillina, Serapis holds the sceptre in the right instead of the left hand, the left arm being envelope in the cloak.
Fifth type: Serapis standing with patera [dish] in right hand, cornucopia in left, a type found in several media including paintings from Pompeii.

The standing Serapis showed greater variety than the seated figure which became fixed by the Alexandrine cult image and its offspring, much as the figures of Harpocrates and Anubis met with in bronze statuettes BR19 (Vermeule 428), MR45 (Vermeule 429) in the Soane collection. In facial features and costuming, however, all these variations of Serapis standing, including the type of the Soane bronze, are so much of the type of the seated statue as to be little more than efforts to give attributive animation to the figure.

1See Mrs Strong, in JHS XVIII, 1908, p.10, Cook Coll., no. 8 and the 33 other replicas ennumerated by Amelung in Rev. Arch., 1903, II, pp. 189-194; also the references given under the Harpocrates, Soane no. MR45 (V429).
2J. Disney, Museum Disneianum, 1848, II, pl. LXXI.
3 "Serpis Standing on A(n) Xanthian Marble in the British Museum", JHS VI, 1885, p. 287ff.
4 Michaelis, Ancient Marbles, 1882.
5 See recently, Jongkees, JHS, 1948, p. 36.

Provenance help-art-provenance

This piece probably shares provenance with L68, the two being similarly mounted.


M.B. Comstock/C.C. Vermeule, Greek, Etruscan and Roman Bronzes in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Boston 1971, no125.

Associated objects

L68, provenance link

If you have any further information about this object, please contact us: worksofart@soane.org.uk