In antiquity owls had a bad reputation: being night birds, they frightened people. Silent graveyards were their domain, hence people connected them with the souls of the dead.Moreover, the owl had a function in predicting the future, because of its capacity to see well in the dark.Most probably, this owl formed part of an old collection in Rome.
The bird itself is proudly standing on a pedestal, which features a slipshod Greek inscription: Archates Petrios, fortune teller, will predict the future for four as. The as was a Roman coin. Apparently the owl served as some kind of business sign.With its stiff posture and with one leg stuck forward, it is reminiscent of Egyptian art. There are indications that in Egypt people believed owls to have the gift of prognostication. Did Archates Petrios hail from the country of the Nile?
The owl has its wings tightly folded against its body and has a falcon hood over its head. Perhaps this hood was removed during the fortune telling session in order to make the owl move a little, which movements were then ‘read’ by the seer. Underneath its claws there lies a dead mouse. On the sides of the pedestal Victoria, the goddess of victory, is represented with wings, laurel wreaths and palmtree branches.