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Marble cinerary urn of Vernasia Cyclas


Height: 50.500 cm (without cover)

Townley Collection

GR 1805.7-3.158 (Sculpture 2379)

    Marble cinerary urn of Vernasia Cyclas

    Roman, 1st century AD
    From Rome, Italy

    Commemorating a young couple

    The urn contained the ashes of Vernasia Cyclas, and was commissioned by her husband Vitalis who was a freed slave working in the imperial household as a scribe. Vernasia, the inscription informs us, died at the age of twenty seven and was an excellent wife. The front of the urn is framed by two tall torches and below the inscribed panel are Vitalis and Vernasia, their right hands joined as during the wedding ceremony. The letters 'F A P' between them may stand for Fidelissimae (most faithful) Amantissimae (most loving) Pientissimae (most devoted).

    Cremation was the standard form of burial in the first century AD, with pottery or glass vessels for poorer burials and marble cinerary urns (containers for cremated remains) for the wealthy. Urns often took the form of miniature shrines, with columns, gabled roofs and other architectural details. As urns were normally placed in niches in family vaults or tombs, the often lavish decoration, with wreaths and garlands, flowers, birds and animals, was usually concentrated on the front.


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