Sacrificial Heifer from an Altar Relief

UnknownRoman, 1st century AD

Cincinnati Art Museum

Cincinnati Art Museum
Cincinnati, United States

In the Imperial era, which began under the emperor Augustus, the Roman government established a tradition of state-sponsored art in Rome and its territories. With state or municipal funds, public monuments of various kinds were commissioned to commemorate religious, political, and military events. Such monuments reminded the populace of the piety of the imperial house and of the centralized authority of the state. One common form of public religious monument was the altar—a raised stone structure dedicated to a god, which served as a focal point of worship and ritual sacrifice.

This life-sized depiction of a heifer, or young cow, was part of such an altar, perhaps dedicated to the goddess Juno, to whom the cow was sacred. In a fashion typical of such sculptural decoration, the Art Museum’s heifer is depicted in profile relief; only its head, which angles away from the background, is sculpted fully in the round. The heifer’s refined naturalism, with attention to the realistic modeling of ribs and veins, reveals a strong debt to Hellenistic Greek art.


  • Title: Sacrificial Heifer from an Altar Relief
  • Creator: Unknown
  • Date Created: Roman, 1st century AD
  • Location: Italy (said to have been found near Anzio)
  • Physical Dimensions: 19 7/8 x 11 3/4 x 51 1/2 in. (50.5 x 29.8 x 130.8 cm)
  • Credit Line: John J. Emery Fund
  • Alternate Title: Sacrificial Bull From an Altar Relief
  • Accession Number: 1946.9
  • Type: Sculpture
  • Medium: marble

Get the app

Explore museums and play with Art Transfer, Pocket Galleries, Art Selfie, and more


Google apps