Two Boys with Bird and Grape Cluster

Palmyra, Circa 2nd-3rd century
Limestone Funerary Relief
Getty Villa, Los Angeles, California

Long before Renaissance artists placed birds and fruit in the hands of the Christ Child, the art of Greece and Rome was using these attributes to signify that a person pictured as smaller than others was a child rather than simply a person of lesser status. In this example, the boys share a grape cluster while the smaller boy carries a bird. According to the Getty's label, the square object in the larger boy's hand is a stylized writing tablet or scroll and signifies his erudition. The boys' garments are in a Parthian style, but Roman and Greek art has influenced the bird and grapes, the hair styles, and the naturalistic rendering of the faces and figures.

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Photographed at the site by Claire Stracke, shared under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license.