Height: 1.940 m
Gift of W. Rooke
GR 1824.7-13.1 (Sculpture 625)
Room 20: Greeks and Lycians
Marble grave monument for a dead youth
Greek, made around 350 BC
Said to be from the island of Delos in the Cyclades, Aegean Sea
Found on a sacred island
This grave stone (stele) is more likely to have been discovered on the island of Rheneia than on Delos. Delos was a sacred island and it was forbidden to bury anyone there. Those about to die or give birth were quickly sent across the narrow channel to the neighbouring island of Rheneia, which had a large cemetery.
Framed within an architectural setting, a young boy passes a lekythos (oil-flask) to a beardless, muscular youth, who seems absorbed in self-reflection. Scenes of quiet contemplation like this are common on grave stones (stelae) of the Classical period. The deceased is shown as if living, accompanied by members of their family and attendants, so it is not always clear which person the memorial commemorates. Sometimes the presence of babies or animals, or added details such as jewellery boxes or athletic paraphernalia, give some clues to the occupation or social position of the deceased. Here the lekythos suggests that the youth was an athlete, perhaps a successful one, as tombstones such as this were expensive. Indeed, during the fourth century BC some grave stelae became extremely large and ornate, with figures carved almost in the round.
A.H Smith, A catalogue of sculpture in th, vol. 1 (London, British Museum, 1892)
B.S. Ridgway, Fourth-century styles in Greek (University of Wisconsin Press, 1997)