Capitoline Wolf

Inv. Scu 1181

Larger-than-life bronze statue, made with the direct lost-wax casting technique in a single casting.

Its provenance is unknown but the analyses of the casting clay still inside suggest that it was made with clay coming from the lower Tiber Valley, an area that also includes Rome, and with metal coming from Sardinia.

Ever since antiquity, the image of the she-wolf suckling the twins has been associated with the myth of the founding of the city of Rome.

It was depicted from the Republican period also on coins with the explicit reference to the identity of the nation that was expanding progressively beyond the city’s borders.

The dating of the work, traditionally ranging within the first half of the 5th century BC, with numerous comparisons in Italic and Greek illustrated productions, has been challenged by the carbon-14 analysis, carried out on the organic remains conserved inside the casting residue, which dates the work to the Middle Ages.

The finishing treatment of the surfaces, less refined than those in large ancient bronzes, also supports this modern chronology. On the other hand, against this hypothesis, there is the low percentage of lead that is not found in bronzes after the ancient period and the thinness of the metal.

The dispute on the dating of the work could go on forever because the absence of data on its original location and the conditions in which the work was conserved until its donation in 1471 makes it impossible to evaluate any external factors, that could have altered the components analyzed with the archaeometric analyses; if anything, it contributes to increase its aura of fascination and mystery.

During the Middle Ages the she-wolf was affixed at the outer wall of the Lateran palace.

The she-wolf was part of a group of ancient bronzes donated to the Roman People in 1471 by Pope Sixtus IV, which is considered the modern era’s first public art collection and comprises the original core of the Capitoline Museums.