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Marble statue of a pair of dogs

Roman, possibly 2nd century AD: found near Civita Lavinia, Lazio, Italy


Height: 67.000 cm

Townley Collection

GR 1805.7-3.8 (Sculpture 2131)

    Marble statue of a pair of dogs

    Roman, possibly 2nd century AD
    Found near Civita Lavinia (modern Lanuvio), Lazio, Italy

    Marble group of a bitch caressing a dog as she nibbles his ear

    These dogs were found with another similar pair near Civita Lavinia. They were acquired in 1774 by Charles Townley from the painter and dealer Gavin Hamilton, who had conducted excavations at a place called 'Dog Mountain'. The appropriateness of the name was not lost on Hamilton, who also found other marble dogs there, a sphinx with dog's body and two statues of Actaeon attacked by hounds. It was once thought that the site of the find was to be identified with the ruins of a palace of the Roman emperor Antoninus Pius (reigned AD 138-161). This is no longer accepted, and the sculpture cannot therefore be firmly dated, as previously thought, to his reign.

    A slightly smaller and less restored pair of dogs from this group was purchased by the papal antiquary Giambattista Visconti for the Vatican Museums. As was customary in such cases, the Pope acquired the better of the two sculptures. Nevertheless, these are among the most charming representations of 'man's best friend' to come down to us from antiquity.

    A. Wilton and I. Bignamini (eds.), Grand Tour: the lure of Italy (London, Tate Gallery Publishing, 1996)


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