Rattle in the Shape of a Pig

Unknown3rd century B.C.

The J. Paul Getty Museum

The J. Paul Getty Museum
Los Angeles, United States

A pig's large stomach hangs low, and touches the ground beneath. The animal's small legs seem barely able to support its weight. This figure was formed by pressing wet clay into a two-part mold to form a small sculpture in the round that can be seen from any side. After the figure was fired in a kiln, it was removed from the mold and painted in bright colors. Traces of pink and white pigment are still visible on the figurine.

Inside the pig, small pieces of dried clay produce a rattling sound when shaken. Children in ancient Greece would have been amused by a rattle like this one. In antiquity, however, when disease often claimed the lives of infants and young children, the sound produced by rattles was also intended to ward off evil. Rattles in the shape of pigs probably had magical meanings, since pigs were sacrificed to various gods in return for protection of children and those caring for them.

Terracotta figurines such as this have been found in children's graves and sanctuaries, where they were left as gifts to the gods.

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  • Title: Rattle in the Shape of a Pig
  • Creator: Unknown
  • Date: 3rd century B.C.
  • Location Created: Centuripe, Sicily, Italy
  • Physical Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.4 x 13.5 cm (3 1/4 x 2 1/8 x 5 5/16 in.)
  • External Link: Find out more about this object on the Museum website.
  • Medium: Terracotta with traces of Polychromy
  • Source Credit Line: The J. Paul Getty Museum, Villa Collection, Malibu, California, Gift of David Collins
  • Object Type: Toy
  • Object Status: Permanent Collection
  • Number: 78.AD.346
  • Display Location: Not currently on view
  • Department: Antiquities
  • Culture: Greek (Sicilian)
  • Credit Line: Gift of David Collins
  • Classification: Implements