JONAH STATUETTES IN THE CLEVELAND MUSEUM OF ART (Inv. Nos.
65. 237-240), OHIO, U.S.A.
"Second half of the third century" (Wixom: 88h); "The years ca. 270-280 are a
plausible date" (Kitzinger: 660).
In 1965 the Cleveland Museum of Art obtained a collection of eleven small marble statuettes, three male busts, three female busts (c. 12-13 inches), and five figurines including a single Good Shepherd (c. 20 inches) and a fourfold Jonah cycle: Jonah as Orans (65.240; c. 18 inches), Jonah being swallowed by the ketos (65.237; c. 20 inches), Jonah being regurgitated (65.238; c. 16 inches), and Jonah at rest (65.239; c. 13 inches). The entire set is in mint condition, allegedly from a single large storage jar, and "are of Eastern Mediterranean origin. The marble in all probability is from the Dokimian quarry in Phrygia; and they were probably carved in southern Asia Minor," possibly in Pamphylia (Kitzinger: 660-661). They were probably intended as fountain decorations. In all four scenes Jonah is fully bearded and he is clothed in two of them; he is naked entering and exiting from the ketos' mouth. According to Wixom (83,88ef) and Kitzinger (671,673), he is, in the Orans pose, modelled on the wandering Cynic philosopher, and, in the rest pose, on the reclining river-god figure.
(a) Statuette 1: Jonah Praying. Ernst Kitzinger says that "a praying Jonah is not part of the usual Jonah cycle as we know it from catacomb paintings and sarcophagi. Normally only three phases of the story are depicted - the beginning of the ordeal (i.e. Jonah being cast overboard and being swallowed by the ketos); the casting out by the ketos; and the repose" (669). But a praying (Orans) person, whether Jonah or not, is very much part of that cycle. Friedrich Gerke interprets this as a sailor giving thanks after Jonah was cast overboard and the storm had subsided, as in Jonah 1:15-16 (1940: 171). Thus, for example, the Santa Maria Antiqua (S2.4a), Baebia Hertofila (S6.7a), and Pisan (S58.4a) sarcophagi as well as many sarcophagi fragments (S28.1a; S32.1a; S37.1a; S43.2a; S44.1a; S45.1a; S49.1a; S50.1a; S54.1; S60.1a; S61.2a; S71.2a) show only two figures in the boat, a steersman and an Orans. Others, however, show the Orans in the boat even as Jonah is being cast overboard (F2.7a; S23.1a; S33.1a; S47.2a). In one such case the Orans is bearded (S55.1a) but everyone else including Jonah is beardless (S55.1a). In other words, almost half of the sarcophagi scenes with the Jonah-boat show an Orans with, but mostly without, Jonah being actually cast overboard and the ketos is usually facing in the opposite direction towards the scene of Jonah at rest. In those cases, then, where only two figures are in the boat are we to imagine a sailor praying after or Jonah himself praying before the denautification. An Orans, and maybe even a Jonah-Orans, is definitely part of the Jonah iconography and the statuette can be taken, therefore, not as Jonah praying from the belly of the ketos, as in Jonah 2:1-9, but as Jonah praying before being cast overboard. In this case his staff and satchel make him more likely Jonah rather than a sailor. The Jonah at Prayer statuette, with full hair and beard, then, can be taken as part of the first part of the sequence: Jonah Cast in to the Sea [St1.1a1].
(b) Statuette 2: Jonah Swallowed. The ketos has two huge front feet which hold the structure securely on its base, very large ears, and its tail is curved upwards above its head. Only Jonah's legs are still visible as he disappears down its gullet [St1.1a2].
(c) Statuette 3: Jonah Regurgitated. A similar construction to Statuette 2 but not so tall because more horizontal than vertical Now the top half of Jonah's naked body is emerging from the ketos' jaws with arms outstretched (Orans?) and the beast's tail is arching over his head [St1.1b].
(d) Statuette 4: Jonah Resting. Jonah, who is bearded in all four figurines, is again clothed and reclining to left under the gourd-vine. He looks, as Kitzinger notes, more like an ancient river-god than a youthful Endymion [St1.1c]
(a) Wixom: 67-88k.
(b) Du Bourguet: 116-118
(c) Kitzinger: 653-675.
(a) Wixom: Figures 25-27 [St1.1a2]; 28 & 58 [St1.1b]; 29-30 & 38 [St1.1c];
31-32 & 34 [St1.1a1]
(b) Du Bourguet: Pages 106 [St1.1c]; 107 [St1.1a2].109 [St1.1b];
(c) Kitzinger: Figures 7 [St1.1a2]; 8 [St1.1b]; 9 & 20 [St1.1a1]; 10 [St1.1c].
(d) Weitzmann, The Age of Spirituality (1979) pl. XII, nr. 366; nr. 365, p.
407; nr. 369, p. 411-12 (added by drc)