- Identification and Creation
- Object Number
- Triple Phallic Amulet
- Work Type
- 1st-3rd century CE
- Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World
- Roman Imperial period
- Physical Descriptions
- Leaded bronze
- Cast, lost-wax process
- 3.2 x 6.8 x 1.2 cm (1 1/4 x 2 11/16 x 1/2 in.)
- Technical Details
Chemical Composition: ICP-MS/AAA data from sample, Leaded Bronze:
Cu, 64.73; Sn, 5.88; Pb, 28.88; Zn, 0.002; Fe, 0.03; Ni, 0.05; Ag, 0.06; Sb, 0.16; As, 0.2; Bi, less than 0.025; Co, 0.021; Au, less than 0.01; Cd, less than 0.001
Technical Observations: The patina is green with spots of red; brown burial accretions are present. The surface is rough and obscured by corrosion products. The top of the loop appears to be fully mineralized and fragile. The object was cast from a model made directly in the wax. Several incised lines appear to have been made by cold working.
Henry Lie (submitted 2012)
- Acquisition and Rights
- Credit Line
- Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Gift of David and Genevieve Hendin
- Accession Year
- Object Number
- Asian and Mediterranean Art
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Published Catalogue Text: Ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern Bronzes at the Harvard Art Museums
This amulet consists of a double phallus with a third phallus in the center, which is depicted with testicles under a small, irregular loop (1). The heads of the two lateral phalloi are both modeled, as is the third with spherical testicles. The amulet is flat on the back and was probably an element of a horse harness.
Phallic amulets could have decorated a variety of objects, from horse trappings to lamps (2). Their symbolism provided them with an apotropaic, protective function (3).
1. Compare University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Philadelphia, inv. no. 29-196-21; British Museum, London, inv. nos. 1814,0704.1274-75; and Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, inv. nos. 31915 and Fr. 1357; M. Kohlert-Németh, Römische Bronzen 1: Aus Nida-Heddernheim, Götter und Dämonen, Archäologische Reihe 11 (Frankfurt am Main, 1988) 68, nos. 1-2; A. Kaufmann-Heinimann, Die römischen Bronzen der Schweiz 5: Neufunde und Nachträge (Mainz, 1994) nos. 327-29; and N. Franken, “Die antiken Bronzen im Römisch-Germanischen Museum Köln: Die Fragmente von Grossbronzen und die figürlichen Bronzegeräte,” Kölner Jahrbuch 29 (1996): 7-203, esp. 108-109, nos. 118-20, figs. 206-208.
2. P. M. Allison, The Insula of the Menander at Pompeii 3: The Finds (Oxford, 2006) 33. For lamps, see L. Pirzio Biroli Stefanelli, ed., Il bronzo dei Romani: Arredo e suppellettile (Rome, 1990) 190 and 270, no. 55, figs. 161-62, where a triple amulet is part of an elaborate hanging lamp, which also includes several bells and an ithyphallic figurine.
3. See Kohlert-Németh 1988 (supra 1) 66-67.
Lisa M. Anderson
- Subjects and Contexts
- Related Works
This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of Asian and Mediterranean Art at email@example.com