Coming from a world famous collection, exhibited in several museums and published, this is a delightful little bronze that will make you smile.
Depicted is a crouching mouse with large ears, an extended straight tail, which is short and pointed, and a stippled coat. Its forepaws are stretched straight out in front. The head, slightly turned to the left, is highly individualised with a small pointed muzzle, incised mouth, large oval eyes marked with incised horizontal slits in the middle, and prominent oval ears projecting diagonally backward, with an oval projection in the middle of each ear.
The modelling of the body and legs is strong and detailed. The body, including the underside of the belly and the front legs, is completely covered with diagonally oriented lines of short horizontal stipples. The animal is shown in an alert position, as if to protect the spherical seed or small nut that it holds between its forepaws and which it is about to eat.
The extensive cold working and incision points to an early Roman date.
It is unknown what purpose this mouse was intended to serve; yet the workmanship shows clearly with how much sympathy and amusement the Romans must have regarded it.
David Gordon Mitten (James Loeb Professor of Classical Art and Archaeology at Harvard University and Curator of Ancient Art at the Fogg Art Museum) published the mouse in a book edited by Kozloff (see below); he wrote about it: "This is the most detailed bronze mouse I know of". What better recommendation can one get? Indeed a highly desirable statuette!
The Cleveland Museum of Art; the Indiana University Art Museum; the Toledo Museum of Art; the J. Paul Getty Museum, Malibu; the University of California Art Museum, Berkeley.
Arielle P. Kozloff (ed.), Animals in Ancient Art from the Leo Mildenberg Collection (Part I) (Cleveland Ohio, Cleveland Museum of Art in cooperation with Indiana University Press, 1981), p. 185, no. 170.
Circa first – second century C.E.
Length 6 cm, height 2.3 cm, width 2.1 cm.
Dutch private collection VB; before collection of Leo Mildenberg; Christie’s London, sale 7017, 26 - 27 October 2004, lot 203.
Intact; a dark, grey-green patina overall; an inventory number painted on the bottom, reading "M 170".