Knabe mit der Gans

Staatliche Antikensammlungen und Glyptothek


The group is the Roman marble version of a Greek bronze original, created in c.220 BC. In bronze, the support between the legs of the young boy and the goose was not necessary, but had a strong negative impact on the marble copies of the sculpture. The Munich Glyptothek owns one of the most important Roman visual traditions of this theme. It came from the Villa of the Quintilii on the Via Appia south of Rome.

The sculpture depicts a young boy of about three years of age who fights a goose. The boy embraces the goose’s neck with both arms. In order to use his body weight effectively, he bends back and stems himself wide-legged against the ground. The goose has also put its feet wide apart and puts up resistance.

At first glance, the motif seems realistic. But would a toddler actually manage to grab a fully-grown goose in this way? Would he not soon regret his rashness if the animal wriggled free from his grip and attacked him with its beak? Hellenistic art of the third to first century BC often shows tensions as built up here between reality and fiction. Moreover, it is not immediately clear whether the group depicts a humorous or serious scene. The sculptor transformed the playful duel into a heroic pose reminiscent of Heracles fighting the Nemean Lion. The cheerful face of the little boy, however, reveals that the situation is not to be taken too seriously.