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sarcophagus

  • Object type

  • Museum number

    1805,0703.144

  • Description

    Sarcophagus of Carrara marble with lid: young girl on her deathbed, conclamatio, among them her parents and a pet dog.

    The principal scene shows the deceased girl propped on pillows on a kline with a high back. Beneath the kline a pet dog plays with a garland that has fallen from her hand. The girl's slippers are laid on a plain footstool beside the dog. At the head of the bed a bearded and veiled man sits on a folding stool, his legs crossed. He holds his head in grief. Similarly depicted is a woman seated in a high-backed chair at the foot of the bed, her legs and arms uncrossed. These are most probably the parents of the dead girl. A young man, his tunic rolled down to his waist, stands in front of the mother. The only male to appear in that part of the scene, he may be a brother of the dead girl. Two women mourn behind the mother's chair, and two men behind the father. Around the bed are three female mourners.
    On the sides of the chest are griffins. The back is un-decorated. On the lid-panel, two garlands of fruit hang from three bucrania. At the corners are acroteria, in the form of male heads wearing the oriental pileus. They have been identified as Arimaspes, shown according to Asiatic tradition to confront the griffins on the short sides of the chest.

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  • Culture/period

  • Date

    • 200-220 (circa)
  • Production place

  • Findspot

  • Materials

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 36.2 centimetres (Chest)
    • Height: 11 centimetres (Lid)
    • Length: 105 centimetres
    • Width: 39.8 centimetres
    • Height: 23 centimetres (Interior)
    • Length: 96 centimetres (Interior)
    • Width: 29 centimetres (Interior)
  • Curator's comments

    Walker 1990

    Smith, III, 325-6 no. 2315; Reinach, Rep Rel II 496, no. 1; J. Liversidge, Furniture in Roman Britain (1955), 7, 30 fig. 17; G. M. A. Hanfmann et al. AJA 61 (1957), 242, pl. 72, fig. 24; K. Schauenburg JdI 81 (1966), 285 n. 72; R. Turcan in Mel. P. Boyancé (1974), 721-47; Koch-Sichtermann, 112, n. 37, 260; Cook, Townley 11-12; Walker, Memorials 48, 50, fig. 40; F. Sinn, Stadtrömische Marmorurnen (Mainz 1987), 67 n. 504.

    The principal scene shows the deceased girl propped on pillows on a kline with a high back. Beneath the kline a pet dog plays with a garland that has fallen from her hand. The girl's slippers are laid on a plain footstool beside the dog. At the head of the bed a bearded and veiled man sits on a folding stool, his legs crossed. He holds his head in grief. Similarly depicted is a woman seated in a high-backed chair at the foot of the bed, her legs and arms uncrossed. These are most probably the parents of the dead girl. A young man, his tunic rolled down to his waist, stands in front of the mother. The only male to appear in that part of the scene, he may be a brother of the dead girl. Two women mourn behind the mother's chair, and two men behind the father. Around the bed are three female mourners.
    On the sides of the chest are griffins. The back is un-decorated. On the lid-panel, two garlands of fruit hang from three bucrania. At the corners are acroteria, in the form of male heads wearing the oriental pileus. They have been identified as Arimaspes, shown according to Asiatic tradition to confront the griffins on the short sides of the chest.(1)
    The interior of the chest is of considerable interest. Beside the headrest, 17.5 cm long and 5 cm high, are two rectangular cuttings in the floor of the chest. These are apparently original, as their worked surfaces are of the same technique as the interior of the chest. Within each cutting is a circular depression, probably intended to hold a small vessel or liquid. These would have been sited on either side of the neck of the skeleton. It is likely that a third circular cutting, to the front of the chest, is also contemporary.
    Later the chest was used as the lower part of a fountain. A circular cutting in the lid, unrelated to those in the floor of the chest, allowed drainage of water into the chest. The circular cuttings in the floor of the chest were filled with pink waterproof plaster, and a drainage channel was hacked through the headrest and the right side of the chest. Another drain was cut through the floor of the chest near the left end.
    In the nineteenth century the chest may have been displayed with its lid raised on iron bars, traces of which may be seen set into plaster on the floor of the chest. The three drainage holes were filled with similar white plaster, and a plug was set in the hole in the lid.
    This is one of a small group of children's sarcophagi showing the rite of conclamatio around the child's death-bed.(2) The group shows such consistency in technique that the sarcophagi may be the products of the same workshop. Though the figures of the mourners are generalised, the age and sex of each deceased child is clearly indicated; the figures were evidently intended as portraits of the deceased.(3) The girl on the London relief has curls set low at the sides of her head; the crown of the head is weathered, but the hair appears to be plaited over the centre. This suggests a date in the later second century AD: compare the tombstone of a woman and her child from Salonica,(4) and, for the curls, the portrait of an adult woman now in the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek dated to the period of the younger Faustina or Lucilla.(5)
    The conclamatio appears on the grave relief of the Haterii. Several reliefs from loculi and, in the round, effigies upon Klinenmonumente show adults and children laid out before burial, but without mourners.(6) A group of lenoi of third-century date, apparently derived from the second-century children's sarcophagi, are decorated with more elaborate themes.(7)

    1. Turcan, 240-1.
    2. Koch-Sichtermann, 112-3; for the rite, see J. M. C. Toynbee, Death and Burial in the Roman World (1971), 44.
    3. G. Mansuelli, Galleria degli Uffizi le Sculture 1 (1958), 228 9 no. 245; Schauenburg, op. cit., (above), fig. 27-30; Toynbee op. cit. (n. 2), pl. 10.
    4. H. Wrede, Consecratio in Formam Deorum (Mainz 1981), 203 no. 25.
    5. V. Poulsen, Les portraits romains II (1974), 117 no. iii pl. clxxv.
    6. Toynbee loc. cit. (n. 2); Wrede, 1977 AA, 395-431.
    7. Koch-Sichtermann, 113.Cook 2011, nr. 43:
    ‘A Sarcophagus near five feet long and 20 inches deep; on the front is represented the ancient luctus domesticus, consisting of a family bewailing over a female corps, laid upon a couch, at the ends of which sit the father and the mother with their heads covered with drapery, two women appear tearing their hair over the deceased, and two other attendants stand in actions expressive of grief – under the couch is dog a wreath of flowers and the sandals of the deceased – it was purchased out of the Valle collection, and is engraved by San: Bartoli in the Rom: Antiquit Admiranda’ (GR 1, Vases, etc., no. 16).
    In the Capranica palace by 1693 (Bartoli) and later reported in the della Valle collection (TY 14/5/3, GR 1, ST 2, and Bodleian Ms Add D 7 fo 67 {ch}).
    Bought from Jenkins in 1768 for 100 Scudi (TY 10/1), rendered as £25 in TY 10/2 and ST 1 (fo. 12v), but as £20 in TY 10/3 (fo. 24), TY 10/5-7 (and valued at £30 in TY 10/6), and Bodleian Ms Add D 71 (fo. 55).
    Montfaucon copied Bartoli’s plate as an illustration of the luctus domesticus (Lucan cf. Cicero, Tusculan Disputations, III. xxxvii. 64), which Townley adopted as the title of the relief (TY 10/2, TY 10/5-7, TY 12/3, etc.). The relief served as a model for a renaissance fake (E. Paul, Gefälschte Antike [Leipzig 1981] 20, 17).

    Date:
    Later II (Walker). AD 150-80 (Huskinson).

    Bibliography:
    - Pietro Santi Bartoli and Giovanni Pietro Bellori, Admiranda romanarum antiquitatum (Rome 1693), pl. 72.
    - Synopsis of the Contents of the British Museum (1808) V.13.
    - Ancient Marbles of the British Museum, V, pl. 3, fig. 5.
    - A. H. Smith, A Catalogue of Sculpture in the Department of Greek and Roman Antiquities, British Museum, Vol. III (London 1904), 325-6, no. 2315.
    - B. F. Cook, The Townley Marbles (London 1985), 11-2.
    - Susan Walker, Memorials to the Roman Dead (London 1985), 48, 50, fig. 40.
    - Friederike Sinn, Stadrömische Marmorurnen (Mainz am Rhein 1987), 67, note 504.
    - Susan Walker, Catalogue of Roman Sarcophagi in the British Museum (CSIR Great Britain Vol. II, fasc. 2, London 1990), 17-8, no. 6 (bibl.), figs, 1, 16, pl. 2.
    - Janet Huskinson, Roman Children’s Sarcophagi (Oxford 1996), 21, no. 1.1, pl. 3.3 (bibl.).

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  • Bibliography

    • Sculpture 2315 bibliographic details
    • Sarcophagus 6 bibliographic details
  • Location

    Not on display

  • Condition

    Restorations have been made to the upper part of the girl standing at head of bed; top left and right corners of front of chest; a section of the upper moulding, including the right corner and of the upper edge of the back; lower right corner of right side; left end of lid. The moulded base is made separately from the chest in the same technique as the lid.

  • Subjects

  • Associated names

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date

    1805

  • Acquisition notes

    Townley purchased the sarcophagus from Thomas Jenkins at Rome in 1768 for £20. Formerly in the Delia Valle-Capranica Collection.

  • Department

    Greek & Roman Antiquities

  • Registration number

    1805,0703.144

Marble sarcophagus with lid: young girl on her deathbed, surrounded by mourners, among them her parents and a pet dog.

Marble sarcophagus with lid: young girl on her deathbed, surrounded by mourners, among them her parents and a pet dog.

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