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Images of a youthful shepherd standing among his flock and carrying a sheep over his shoulders were popular with Romans of traditional faith as well as Christians living in the Late Roman Empire. Painted on the walls or the ceiling of a burial chamber or carved on a marble sarcophagus, this image might simply invoke the deceased’s hope for a peaceful afterlife spent in a pastoral setting. For Christians, this traditional Roman image took on a more specific meaning. It could be understood to refer to the passage in the Gospel according to John in which Christ said of himself: "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep." (John 10:11). Allegedly found together with the Jonah statuettes, it is indeed likely that this figure represents Christ as the Good Shepherd.

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Details

  • Title: The Good Shepherd
  • Date Created: AD 280-90
  • Physical Dimensions: Overall: 49.5 x 26 x 16.2 cm (19 1/2 x 10 1/4 x 6 3/8 in.)
  • Provenance: According to William Wixom, an unconfirmed report tells us that the entire group (1965.237-1965.247) was found in a single, huge pithos or jar., (J. J. Klejman, New York), The Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, OH
  • Type: Sculpture
  • Rights: CC0
  • External Link: https://clevelandart.org/art/1965.241
  • Medium: marble
  • Fun Fact: This youthful shepherd appears serene while bearing a large sheep on his broad shoulders. He looks untaxed by this effort and his calm presence seems to put the small sheep at ease, as they frolic at his feet. Since this sculpture was found together with the four Jonah statuettes, it is likely this figure depicts Christ as the Good Shepherd.
  • Department: Medieval Art
  • Culture: Asia Minor, Late Roman-early Christian
  • Credit Line: John L. Severance Fund
  • Collection: MED - Early Christian
  • Accession Number: 1965.241

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