Tampa Museum of Art

The Classical World in Focus: Animals in Ancient Art

Ram, 3rd century AD Cast bronze Hood Museum of Art,Dartmouth College, Gift of Family Lansburgh, Classes of 1949, 1977, 1988,S.2000.52

In this exhibition—on view in the MacKechnie Gallery alongside a reorganized Classical World display in the Lemonopolous Gallery—visitors will see a small sampling of the roles played by animals in ancient life, myth, and art. Whether as pets or pests, beasts of burden or symbols of status, animals are often represented naturalistically in ancient art, providing a ready connection between antiquity and the present day. But as hybrid creatures combining multiple animal and human forms (such as winged horses or centaurs), animals also populated the ancient imagination, reminding us of important differences between past and present.

The artifacts and artworks on view span broad geographical areas across more than a millennium (from well before 500 BC to after AD 500), in media ranging from black-figure and red-figure pottery to sculpture in terracotta, stone, and precious metal. Alongside numerous Greek, Etruscan, and Roman works from the Museum’s permanent collection are a number of significant works lent by other institutions and private collections. Most striking among these loans are a Roman marble lion sarcophagus from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and an early Christian mosaic with running dog from the Hood Museum of Art at Dartmouth College.