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Muse Casket

  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Title (object)

    • Muse Casket
  • Description

    Casket; silver; circular with domed cover; engraved; surface of body and dome divided into sixteen panels, with flat and concave faces; 'flat' panel decoration includes: vases, vines and birds; fluted panels undecorated, those on body contain standing female figures under arches (eight of the nine muses); they are, to the right of the hasp, reading counter-clockwise: Urania, with a globe; Melpomene, with a Heraclean club and a mask; Clio, with a book and a caspa with scrolls; Polyhymnia, with a small mask; Terpsichore, with a lyre; Euterpe, with a double flute; Thalia, with a Dionysiac pedum and comic mask; and Calliope, with a scroll; top of dome: medallion containing female figures seated in landscape setting. Restored: interior fitted for five vessels - four identical silver canisters and one silver flask.


  • Culture/period

  • Date

    • 330-370
  • Production place

  • Findspot

  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Diameter: 33.5 centimetres
    • Height: 26 centimetres (casket)
    • Weight: 4800 grammes
    • Height: 55.8 centimetres (with chain up)
    • Height: 10.4 centimetres (Round canisters)
    • Diameter: 6.8 centimetres (Round canisters)
    • Height: 10.6 centimetres (Conical canister)
    • Diameter: 8.3 centimetres (Conical canister)
  • Curator's comments

    Published: J.P.C. Kent and K.S. Painter, Wealth of the Late Roman World (exh. cat), London, 1977, no 89; K. Weitzmann (ed.), Age of Spirituality (exh. cat.), New York, 1979, no 309.

  • Bibliography

    • Shelton 1981 2 bibliographic details
    • Dalton 1901 305 bibliographic details
    • Weitzmann 1979 309 bibliographic details
  • Location

    On display: G41/dc7

  • Exhibition history


    2012-2013 11 Nov-25 Aug, USA, Art Institute of Chicago, Tradition Transformed: Late Roman and Early Byzantine Treasures from the British Museum
    2009 20 May-21 Sep, France, Paris, Musée National du Moyen Age Thermes de Cluny de Paris, Belle comme la Romaine: Cosmetics and Body Care from Antiquity to the Middle Ages
    2003 7 Dec-2004 2 May, Italy, Milan, Museo Diocesano, Ambrogio e Agostino: le sorgenti dell’Europa
    2000 21 Dec-2001 20 Apr, Italy, Rome, Palazzo delle Esposizioni, Aurea Roma. Dalla Citta pagana alla citte Cristiana
    1977-1978 18 Nov-12 Feb, New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Early Christian Art

  • Subjects

  • Associated names

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date


  • Acquisition notes

    Excavated: 1793. The collection changed hands numerous times, before BM acquisition date; the first time in 1800.

  • Department

    Britain, Europe and Prehistory

  • Registration number


COMPASS Image Caption: Open

3/4: Left

COMPASS Image Caption: Open

Image description



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Object reference number: MCB4075

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