- Museum number
Lenos (tub-shaped sarcophagus): man portrayed as the sleeping Endymion. The figure reclines with the head lightly supported in the left hand. That the sculptor originally intended to represent a female figure is clear from the pose, the form of the hands and of the lower limbs, the re-cut breasts, and the unusual provision of a cutting, into which the penis (now lost) was set. In the context of the surrounding decoration the original female figure must have been Ariadne. Two cupids bearing torches fly above the figure, lightly touching the drapery and the hand of the arm above the head, as if to point her out to Bacchus. In form the cupids are derived from the type supporting a clipeus (compare Walker, no. 35). Behind the left-hand cupid flies another bearing a garland, and behind him are two musicians, the first playing a lyre and the second a Phrygian double flute. Beneath is a cupid with a basket of fruit, probably grapes. Behind him a hare eats grapes fallen from an overflowing jar. To the right of Endymion, near the base of the sarcophagus, a cupid sits facing left, his head propped on his elbow, as if to imitate the sleeping Endymion. Behind him two cupids pack fruit into a basket, and above them another sits at a table, holding a garland secured to a tree. On the short sides are trees hung with quivers, flutes, fruit and torches. The back is undecorated. Made of marble from Proconnesos or Thassos.
- Production date
- 240-260 (circa)
Height: 61.80 centimetres (about)
Length: 220 centimetres
Width: 64 centimetres (about)
- Curator's comments
- Walker, Susan, 1990, Catalogue of Roman Sarcophagi in the British Museum:
E. Gerhard, Arch. Zeit. 8 (1850), no. 19, 20, 214 with n. 2 (prov); Robert, ASR, III. 1, 110-1, no. 92; Michaelis, 641 no. 74; Mrs S. A. (Eugenie) Strong, JHS 28 (1908), 30 no. 45, pl. xxi; Gerke, 17 ff, 331. II 27; H. Sichtermann, Spate Endymionsarkophage (Baden-Baden 1966), 68—75 (bibl.); Turcan, 564 (indexed under London, Richmond); F. Matz, ASR, IV. 3 (1969), 404; K. Fittschen, Rez. Sichtermann (1966), GGA 221 (1969), 41-9; Stuveras, pl. lxi; Engemann, 71 (bibl.) and pl. 11; G. Koch, ASR, XII, 6. Die Meleagersarkophage (Berlin 1975), 60-2; Koch-Sichrermann, 146, n. 13 (bibl.), 290, 610; Walker, Memorials, cover and pl. 27; H. Gabelmann, LIMC, III, 736 no. 98; Walker, Untimely Memorials 548, fig. 1; 550.
The portrait is of a youth with close-cropped hair and large, wide-open eyes. The hairstyle has been compared to portraits of the period of Decius,(1) but others have dated the sarcophagus to the decades between Gallienus and the Tetrarchy.(2)
This sarcophagus has long been compared to the Ariadne sarcophagus from Auletta, where the decoration is clearly divided into two registers(3) and the figure of Ariadne is crudely carved and ill-proportioned. These and other sarcophagi have been grouped together as the products of one or more workshops based in Campania, specialising in the manufacture of unrefined imitations of the metropolitan repertoire.(4) It is not clear whether the wide variation within the group, in style as in quality, reflects a chronological development or the proliferation of Campanian workshops.
Until the publication of Sichtermann's study (1966), the re-cutting of the central figure had not been recognised, and the decoration of the sarcophagus had been analysed in terms of the Endymion cycle.(5) Sichtermann noted the diversity of origin of the cupids: some belong to Selene, and others to Bacchic thiasoi, to scenes of vintage and symposia. Thus the central figure becomes the most important element in the composition, and the setting is generalised, a mythological rag-bag.(6) Fittschen observed that a logical reading of the iconography should then stress the apotheosis of the deceased individual, rather than the mythological content of the scene, which in this example is in any case further confused by the re-cutting of the central figure.(7) The drastic re-cutting suggests that this sarcophagus, like Walker no. 36, was purchased from stock for someone who died unexpectedly.
1. Fittschen, op. cit. (above), 45 n. 10.
2. E.g. Gerke, loc. cit. (above); Sichtermann, loc. cit. (above).
3. F. Matz, ASR, IV. 3 (1969), 403-4 no. 229.
4. Koch, loc. cit. (above).
5. E.g. Gerke, loc. cit. (above).
6. Sichtermann, op. cit. (above), 75, 80.
7. Fittschen, loc. cit. (above).
- Not on display
- Minor breaks along the upper margins. The youth's genitals are missing.
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- Formerly in the collection of Sir Frederick Cook of Richmond (Surrey), and previously in the Collezione Ligori, Naples.
- Greek and Roman
- Registration number