Height: 83.750 cm
Width: 50.750 cm
GR 1805.7-3.183 (Sculpture 628)
Room 19: Greece: Athens
Marble gravestone of Xanthippos, the shoemaker
Greek, around 420 BC
From Athens, Greece
The Athenian practice of setting up sculptured grave stelae was discontinued at the end of the Persian Wars in 479 BC. Many people had lost their fortunes, and to spend money on costly personal monuments at such a time would have seemed undemocratic. However, around 430 BC, Athens' desire to honour the first casualties of the war with the rival state of Sparta prompted a revival of the custom. Rules against such monuments were relaxed, and masons were kept busy carving tombstones, both for soldiers and the citizen population who were to suffer greatly from the plague that swept Athens at this time.
This stele comes from this period. It shows a bearded man sitting on a chair (klismos) and holding up a shoemaker's last. The image probably reflects his line of business. The man's facial type and the sculpting of his anatomy and the drapery strongly evoke the sculptured frieze of the Parthenon, completed shortly before this stone was carved. The shoemaker is accompanied by two small figures, who probably represent his daughters. One holds up her hands, seemingly in prayer, the other clutches a bird.
The sculpture was acquired in Athens around 1747 by Dr Anthony Askew and passed eventually into the collection of Charles Townley.
B.F. Cook, Greek inscriptions (London, The British Museum Press, 1987)
B.F. Cook, The Townley Marbles (London, The British Museum Press, 1985)