- Museum number
Marble sepulchral relief of two women. Represented from the chest up, both turn their heads towards each other and clasp their right hands. Inscribed with the names of Fonteia Eleusis and Fonteia Helena, both freedwomen of Gaia Fonteia.
- Production date
- 1C BC (Augustan?)
Height: 53.75 centimetres
Width: 56.25 centimetres
- Curator's comments
The relief belongs to a type popular in the late Republic and early Empire, particularly among freedmen. The deceased are represented in bust format, as if looking out of a window of their tomb monument, gazing at the passer-by.
It is highly unusual in showing two women with clasped right hands ('dextrarum iunctio'), an iconographic formula normally reserved for married couples. The relief shows clear signs of later re-working, although there is no consensus on whether the left figure was changed from a man into a woman or, perhaps less likely, from a woman into a man.
The two women were former slaves of a lady called Gaia Fonteia, perhaps a member of the Fonteii Capitones, one of the great families of Augustan Rome. There are five other inscriptions from Rome naming freedmen and women of hers.
S. Walker and A. Burnett (1981). Augustus: Handlist of the Exhibition. British Museum Occasional Paper 16, pp. 43-47.
R. Stupperich (1983). Zur dextrarum iunctio auf frühen römischen Grabreliefs, Boreas 6, pp. 143-150.
On freedmen reliefs in general:
P. Zanker, "Grabreliefs römischer Freigelassener", JdI 90 (1975), 267-315.
*The exact interpretation of the otherwise unparalleled term 'hodata' is disputed. Possible interpretations are
- h(ic) o(ssa) data ('the bones given here')
- h(aec) o(lla) data
* On the Fonteii Capitones, see PIR 2 [= Prosopographia Imperii Romani, 2nd ed. pp. 469-71]. Their cognomen (Eleusis and Helena) bears eloquent witness to the procurement of Greek nationals slaves.
*It is highly unusual to show two women with clasped right hands ('dextrarum iunctio'), an iconographic formula normally reserved for married couples. The relief shows clear signs of later re-working (the recutting is Constantinian: Walker and Burnett 1981, 48), although there is no consensus on whether the left figure was changed from a man into a woman or, perhaps less likely, from a woman into a man. For another interpretation, see Stupperich 1983, 145-49.
Davies 1985, Keegan 2003, and Walker 1981 favoured either a mother-daughter relationship, a conliberta (female slave belonging to the same collective social unit), or a relative of the second woman, as in a relief on a ash-chest, kept at the Vatican, of a father and son (Q. Flavius Crito and the son Q. Flavius Proculus), dedicated by Iunia Procula to her husband. Others, such as D’Angelo 1990 and Brooten 1998, have seen the two women as partners/lovers.
- On display (G70)
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- Previously unregistered.
- Greek and Roman
- Registration number