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The Projecta Casket

  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Title (object)

    • The Projecta Casket
  • Description

    Casket; truncated rectangular pyramid with isosceles trapezoids; silver with gilding; lid decorated with five panels containing three related mythological scenes - including Venus bathing, a Nereid riding a hippocampus and ketos on right and left side of lid respectively, two portraits enclosed by two standing, nude Erotes on top panel; back panel depicts an architectural setting containing six figures 'the bath procession'; the body panels follow similar themes depicting characters framed by columns and arches; restored. Christian inscription on rim of lid.


  • Culture/period

  • Date

    • 380 (circa)
  • Production place

  • Findspot

  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 28.6 centimetres
    • Length: 56 centimetres (Longest point)
    • Width: 48.8 centimetres (Widest point)
    • Weight: 8200 grammes
    • Length: 33.2 centimetres (At base)
    • Width: 23.4 centimetres (At base)
  • Inscriptions

      • Inscription Type

      • Inscription Position

        Rim of casket lid, before front panel.
      • Inscription Language

      • Inscription Content

      • Inscription Translation

        Secundus and Proiecta, live in Christ.
      • Inscription Comment

        Dedicatory inscription; in large engraved capitals.
      • Inscription Type

      • Inscription Position

        vertical rim of casket lid before front panel
      • Inscription Language

      • Inscription Content

      • Inscription Transliteration

        [Pondo] XXII,III [Unciae],S[emuncia]
      • Inscription Translation

        Twenty-two(Roman)pounds, three and one-half(Roman)ounces.
      • Inscription Comment

        Weight inscription, in pointille capitals.
  • Curator's comments

    Published: J.P.C. Kent and K.S. Painter (eds.), Wealth of the Late Roman World (exh. cat.), London, 1977, no 88; K. Weitzmann (ed.), Age of Spirituality (exh. cat), New York, 1979, no 310; K. Shelton, The Esquiline Treasure (London, 1981), no. 1, pls 1-11; A. Cameron, 'The date and owners of the Esquiline treasure: the nature of the evidence', American Journal of Archaeology 89 (1985), 135-45; K. Shelton, 'The Esquiline treasure: the nature of the evidence', American Journal of Archaeology 89 (1985), 147-55; Exh. cat. Milano capitale dell'impero Romano 286-402d.C. Milano - Palazzo Reale 24 gennaio-22 aprile 1999, Milan, 1990, no 1g.1d.1, p. 81; J. Elsner, 'Visualising women in Late Antique Rome: the Projecta casket', in C. Entwistle (ed.), Through a Glass Brightly....(Oxford, 2003), 22-36. J. Elsner, Roman Eyes: Visuality and Subjectivity in Art and Text (Princeton, 2007), 200-24.For metallurgical analyses of all the objects from the treasure see: M.J. Hughes and J.A. Hall, "X-ray Fluorescence Analysis of Late Roman and Sassanian Silver", Journal of Archaeological Science 6 (1979), pp. 321-44.Blurton 1997
    The decoration of the casket suggests that it was a toilet casket given as a wedding present. It has long attracted interest because of its combination of mythological scenes and the Christian inscription: 'Secundus and Projecta, live in Christ'.


  • Bibliography

    • Eastmond 2013 035 bibliographic details
    • Shelton 1981 1 bibliographic details
    • Buckton 1994 10 bibliographic details
    • Blurton 1997 187 bibliographic details
    • Marzinzik 2013 3 bibliographic details
    • Dalton 1901 304 bibliographic details
    • Weitzmann 1979 310 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, Musee de Cluny, Paris, France, 'Le Bain et le Miroir. Soins du corps et cosmetiques de l'Antiquite au Moyen Age.'
    2008 25 Oct-2009 22 Mar, London, Royal Academy of Arts, Byzantium 330-1453 AD
    2007 2 Jun-4 Nov, Germany, Trier, Rheinisches Landesmuseum, Constantine the Great
    1998 9 Feb-3 May, India, Mumbai, Sir Caswasjee Jahangir Hall, The Enduring Image
    1997 13 Oct-1998 5 Jan, India, New Delhi, National Museum, The Enduring Image
    1996 30 Mar-13 Nov, Italy, Rimini, Sala dell’Arengo, Dalla Terra Alle Genti
    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 Title: The Projecta Casket

COMPASS Title: The Projecta Casket

Image description



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Object reference number: MCB3780

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