Animal on its Hind Legs
9 x 4.75 x 3.5 inches
Probably from Egypt 200-500 CE
Picker Art Gallery
Colgate University, Hamilton, NY

This relief fragment depicts a vertically oriented, deer-like animal. The animal is rearing up on its strong hind legs, which support its muscular body, thick neck and head. The animal’s head, with ears upturned, is looking backwards rather than in the direction of its forward bodily movement. The motif of the backward facing animal can be found on other pieces in the Mayer collection, including 1982.47 and 1982.59.

Stylistically, the animal is deeply carved into the limestone. This is most clearly seen along the animal’s body and neck. The deep relief causes the animal to jut forward from the surface and its body is clearly visible against the decorative vines that follow the contour of the back. The deep relief is accented by the traces of black pigment that aid in defining the details of the animal and surrounding vines, particularly visible around the eyes, ears and vines. These paint marks may be the sign of the sculptor’s process, delineating the necessary lines and curves to be carved. Similar traces of black paint can be found on other pieces in the Mayer collection, such as 1966.1.882 and 1982.64.

The deep carving of the relief and accentuating paint marks complement the overall structure of the sculpture. This piece, unlike others in the collection, is shaped like a triangular wedge, with the long diagonal section slightly concave. The deer-like animal is carved on this curved side of the stone. This orientation might suggest that this piece was part of a carved column capital. The slant in the stone, deep relief, and paint definition would help the details of this capital, situated at the top of a tall column, remain legible to a viewer on the ground.

Courtney Diamond ('12) is an Art History major from Lafayette, California.