- Museum number
Part of the front of a Proconnesian marble sarcophagus: Achilles on Skyros, dressed in women's clothes, is discovered among the daughters of Lycomedes.
- Production date
- 200-230 (circa)
Height: 52 centimetres
Length: 115.50 centimetres
Thickness: 8 centimetres (inc. mount)
- Curator's comments
Walker, Susan, 1990, Catalogue of Roman Sarcophagi in the British Museum:.
Smith, III, 300-1 no. 2297; F. Brommer, Denkmälerlisten zur griechischen Heldensage II (Marburg 1974), 81 no. 9; Koch-Sichtermann, 128, n. 20; A. Kossatz-Deissmann, LIMC, I, 62 no. 139, pl. 71.
With so much restoration and mending, the original surface of the relief required re-working to harmonise the new elements with the original. The triangular restoration now comprising the lower part of the woman left of Achilles may have replaced the customary figure of the kneeling Deidameia.
On the original relief, Achilles would have occupied a central position. Holding his spear across his body, he draws back in shock at recognition of his true identity. He wears a woman's sleeveless chiton, and his hair, worn in a style reminiscent of Alexander's, reaches his shoulders.(1) He has just been startled out of his chair, shown to the right with his cloak thrown over the back of it. To the right a woman tries to wrest his spear from him. On the ground beside her is Achilles' helmet. Another woman to the left of him grabs his right arm with both hands. Two more are shown in the background. Another follows, alerting a sixth woman who runs to the left.
The recognition of Achilles was a relatively popular theme amongst sculptors of metropolitan sarcophagi in the later second and early third centuries AD,(2) and the London fragment may be ascribed to a group of sarcophagi carved around AD 200. Very closely related in theme, the poses of the figures are varied.(3)
1. On the representation of Achilles, see D. Kemp-Lindemann, Darstellungen des Achilleus in griechischer und römischer Kunst (Diss. Mainz 1975). On the romantic adoption of Alexander's hairstyle for portraits and other figures in later second- and early third-century sculpture, see K. Fittschen, 'Barbaren-Köpfe: zur Imitation Alexanders der Gr. in der mittleren Kaiserzeit,' in (ed. S. Walker, A. Cameron), The Greek Renaissance in the Roman Empire (BICS suppl., forthcoming 1989).
2. Koch-Sichtermann, 127-8.
3. Compare Louvre 3570: (Baratte and Metzger, 42-6 no. 13) and a sarcophagus in the Villa Doria Pamphili: M. Bonanno in R. Calza (ed.) Antichità di Villa Doria Pamphili (Rome 1977), 142-3 no. 169. The date suggested by Kossatz-Deissmann, op. cit. (above) is AD 225-50.
Cook 2011, nr. 247:
‘A bas relief, part of the front of a sarcophagus, representing Achilles amongst the daughters of Lycomedes, from whom he is in the moment of flying to join the Greeks before Troy’ (TY 12/3, hall 28). When he first acquired this relief, Townley mistook Achilles for Minerva and the daughters of Lycomedes for the Muses (TY 10/3, fo. 12; ‘Union Catalogue’, fo. 74r; First Townley Inventory), but by 1788 this misconception had been corrected.
Acquired from Mr Morison in 1784 in part exchange for the portrait bust identified as Albinus (present location unknown, Cook 2011, nr. 246).
end of II AD (Rogge); ca. AD 200 (Walker); 225-50 AD (Huskinson); 2nd ¼ III AD (Lexicon Iconographicum Mythologiae Classicae).
* Townley drawing 2010,5006.1877.23;
* Chambers: B. F. Cook, `The Townley Marbles in Westminster and Bloomsbury’, The British Museum Yearbook, 2 (1977), 48-49, figs. 30-31, no. 41.
- Synopsis of the Contents of the British Museum (1808), VI.2;
- Ancient Marbles of the British Museum, X, pl. 36;
- A. H. Smith, A Catalogue of Sculpture in the Department of Greek and Roman Antiquities, British Museum, Vol. III (London 1904), 30-1, no. 2297;
- S. Walker, Catalogue of Roman Sarcophagi in the British Museum. CSIR Great Britain, vol. 2.2 (London, 1990), 21, no. 13 (bibl.), pl. 5;
- J. Huskinson, Roman Children’s Sarcophagi (Oxford, 1996), 26, no. 2.3;
- S. Rogge, Die antiken Sarkophagreliefs IX.1. Die attischen Sarkophage, 1. Achill und Hippolytos (Berlin, 1995), 100, 131-132;
- Lexicon Iconographicum Mythologiae Classicae, I, 62 s.v.Achilles no. 139*.
- Not on display
- Restores in modern times. About 35 cm of the right end of the front is missing (this would probably have shown Odysseus with his companions). The upper right corner has been restored with the full length of the parapetasma replacing the missing figures. The entire base of the relief to ankle level of the figures is restored. A triangular patch has been inserted to the left of Achilles and his spear is largely restored, as is the right hand of the second woman from the left. The relief is diagonally broken in three places from the top to bottom.
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- Acquired by Townley before 1786. Provenance unknown.
- Greek and Roman
- Registration number