Detail View: The AMICA Library: Jonah Praying

AMICA Library Year: 
Object Type: 
Creator Nationality: 
Asian; Anatolian; Phrygian
Creator Name-CRT: 
Asia Minor, probably Phrygia (Central Turkey), Early Christian, 3rd century
Jonah Praying
Title Type: 
Group View
Creation Date: 
c. 270-280
Creation Start Date: 
Creation End Date: 
Materials and Techniques: 
Style or Period: 
Early Christian
Creation Place: 
Asia Minor, Central Turkey
Overall: 47cm x 14cm x 20.65cm
AMICA Contributor: 
The Cleveland Museum of Art
Owner Location: 
Cleveland, Ohio, USA
ID Number: 
Credit Line: 
John L. Severance Fund
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).
These symbolic sculptures and the six paired portrait busts displayed nearby may all share a common origin since the entire group was purportedly unearthed together from a large pithos, or jar. The original find-spot remains unknown. Other reasons for believing the sculptures belonged together are their common material, their similarities of style and execution, and the burial deposits over theirsurfaces. Recent technical analysis has helped identify the Roman Imperial quarries at Docimium inAncient Phrygia (now Central Turkey) as the source for the marble from which the sculptures were carved. The Docimium quarries supplied the Roman Empire with high-quality marble in the form of unfinished blocks that were used for sculpture, paving, and veneer. Known as 'The Jonah Marbles,' this sculptural ensemble astonished the art world when it was introduced to the public in 1965, not only for its superb quality and condition, but also for its very survival.The Symbolism of the SculpturesThese sculptures conform to a language of symbols developed by early Christians. The Good Shepherd represents Christ as the savior of his Christian flock. The four figures of Jonah depict incidents from the biblical story. Swallowed by a 'great fish' for his disobedience to God, Jonah spent three days within the beast's stomach. After repenting, he was disgorged unharmed. Jonah Swallowed and Jonah Cast Up were understood by early Christians to represent the death and resurrection of Christ. The gourd vine under which Jonah rests was another symbol of the resurrection. The image of Jonah resting developed from pagan mythological figures who, after sleeping, arose to everlasting life in paradise. The figure of Jonah Praying with arms extended in the 'orant' position may represent either his repentance within the whale's belly or his thankfulness after his deliverance.
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