A Roman bronze figure of dancing Lar, Circa 1st Century BC/AD


The sizeable figure is standing on tiptoe, dancing forward with his right leg advanced, his head turned to the left to look up at his raised left arm, once holding a rhyton or cornucopia, his right arm at the side, now missing, wearing a tunic with long apoptygma (overfold), the edges of the drapery billowing with movement, a thick sash wound about his waist, looped and tucked at either side, the ends flowing out, wearing detailed open-toed boots with the animal skin lining folded over the tops, wearing a high radiate-style wreath in his hair, curls clustered around his forehead, the eyes inlaid with silver.

The Lares were the family gods, protectors of the house, and images of them were placed in household shrines or lararia. They are usually depicted with attributes of cornucopia or a rhyton in the raised hand, and a libation bowl such as a patera or phiale in the lowered hand. Drawing on Greek art and the traditions of Rome’s past, Augustus linked the cults of the Lares to that of the Genius of the Emperor between 12 and 7 BC and it is likely that this bronze dates to that period.

This type is thought to have its origins in the Hellenistic dancer type created by the painter Theodotus in the 2nd Century BC. Certainly the energy of movement in this bronze seems to reflect the vibrancy of Hellenistic art. The upright nature of the wreath and the longer hair of this figure are rather unusual, and have some similarities with images of Alexander the Great in the guise of Helios.