Historical significance: The octopus is identified by the Natural History Museum as one found in the Mediterranean, probably of an edible variety. Unfortunately, there are not enough identifying features to specify its species. The eight arms of the octopus are exactly as in life, with two rows of suckers along the entire arm, suggesting that the sculptor modelled the statuette from life. It could have been possible that the sculptor cast from life, although it would be necessary to support the head. Whilst the web-like formation between the roots of the arms, and the suckers are life-like, the head and facial features are stylised. The shape of the head is anatomically correct, but the head of an octopus does not stand up-right in water as it does in this statuette. The eyes have been transferred from the neck of the octopus to a position in relation to the syphon (the organ used by cephalopods to expel water) similar to that of human eyes in relation to the nose. The intention of the head is evidently humorous.
The date of casting is unknown, but it may have been created for a collectors’ cabinet, ca. 1550-1600, or possibly in the 19th or early 20th century in imitation, feeding the market for Renaissance bronzes at that time.[Victoria & Albert Museum]
“The intention of the head is evidently humorous…”