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Lar holding an offering bowl (patera) and cornucopia

Roman; Imperial
Place made: 
Europe; Italy
Lar holding an offering bowl (patera) and cornucopia, 1st-2nd century CE
Overall: 4 1/4 in x 2 3/16 in x 1 1/4 in; 10.8 cm x 5.6 cm x 3.2 cm
Purchase with the Susan and Bernard Schilling (Susan Eisenhart, Class of 1932) Fund
MH 2013.31

Don’t let his diminutive size deceive you—ancient Romans believed that the Lares (domestic gods) had tremendous power. This statuette wears the typical billowing tunic and carries a patera (bowl for liquid offerings) and a cornucopia bursting with grapes and pinecones. Along with statuettes of various deities and other important figures he would once have stood in a lararium (household shrine), the site of a Roman family’s daily worship. Sacrifices to the Lares of figs, honey, grains, incense, and occasionally blood were thought to ensure the protection of the household. Ancient Romans believed that failure to properly honor the Lares could result in extreme retribution—including death.

-Taylor Anderson, Art Museum Adivsory Board Curatorial Fellow, Mount Holyoke College Art Museum (Sept. 2016)