Magna Graecia, Apulia, Canosan Hellenistic Period, ca. 3rd to 2nd century BCE. A delightful mold-made terracotta sculpture of Eros, the Greek god of love and desire (Roman Cupid), sitting upon a goose adorned in hues of yellow, pink, blue, and white. The child-like deity is shown nude and dynamically posed, his cherubic body energetically twisting as he grasps the bird. His upper body leans to his left as he embraces the neck of his avian mount and feeds the animal from the palm of his left hand. His left leg is bent below him and his right lays straight on the back of his fine feathered friend. A lovely petaloid diadem crowns the head of the playful deity and draped veils separate his supple flesh from the plumage of his companion. Size: 2.625" L x 2.25" W x 5.25" H (6.7 cm x 5.7 cm x 13.3 cm)
This iconographic theme emerged during the Hellenistic period when sculptors introduced several charming representations of children or Erotes with birds or their pets. Sometimes the ancient artists captured a playful moment with the Cupid or child embracing the pet with such a high degree of enthusiasm that he appears to almost suffocate the animal. Sometimes the pet’s resistance manifested in a struggle. For example, Pliny the Elder mentioned a sculpture of a child struggling with a goose, the original by Boethos of Chalcedon, a Greek sculptor of the 2nd century BCE, in his Natural History (XXXIV, 84). The Boethos child became widely popular and was rendered several times by Roman sculptors. It also served as an inspirational source for multiple adaptations and variants of which the present piece is likely one.
Canosa, or Canosion as it was known then, was a major center of the ceramics and pottery trade when it was a Greek polis. Canosan artists produced truly unique pottery, completely different in decoration style from earlier and neighboring traditions. The clay is buff, with the decoration applied directly to it without the use of slip.
Provenance: private Beverly Hills collection, California, USA acquired prior to 2000; ex-Superior Galleries, "Fine Antiquities Auction" June, 1993
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Missing wings. Verso repaired from a few pieces with restoration over break lines and small area of restoration near base. Stable hairline pressure fissure around torso of cupid with some restoration on interior of that area. Chip to verso of base and leg of Eros. Expected nicks, softening of detail, and abrasions, commensurate with age. Otherwise, excellent with remarkable remaining pigments.