The monkey is bearing a military sagum with cucullus (a type of tunic with a hood worn by military men) and is holding beside it a lamp. This representation can be a Roman military mascot or simply a grotesque. In 2001 in Spain, at Llivia, remains of Barbary apes with military belt buckles typically related to the late Roman period were discovered. The discovery of this type of belt buckle in a human grave would suggest that they were once a part of this army, so the fact that some were given to a Barbary ape means that the apes played a military role, for example, acted as targets to distract the enemy, or had a combat or defence role. Apes were also a common form of pet in the Graeco-Roman world.
Roman Bronze Spanish Military Monkey Statuette
A finely crafted Roman cast bronze monkey statuette. The animal is seated on a polygonal base, right hand placed on the left shoulder with its head tilted towards it. The ape is dressed in a paenula (a long cloak without sleeves, and with only an opening for the head) and holds (possibly) a lantern. The anatomical features have been naturalistically rendered including deep-set eyes, long nose, and protruding brow-bone. This statuette has been mounted on a custom-made stand.
Measurement of the figurine without the stand: 3.7cm x 2.4cm
Provenance: ‘The Ancient Menagerie Collection’ formerly the property of a Cambridgeshire lady, collected since the 1990s and acquired from auctions and dealers throughout Europe and the USA, now ex London collection.
|L 2.3 x W 2.4 x H 5 cm
Reference: For a similar item,The Metropolitan Museum of Art, item 15.43.6