Funerary relief

Roman
Late Republican or Early Imperial Period
Late 1st century B.C. or early 1st century A.D.


Catalogue Raisonné

Sculpture in Stone (MFA), no. 325; Sculpture in Stone and Bronze (MFA), p. 114 (additional published references).

Dimensions

Overall: 60 x 120 x 152 cm (23 5/8 x 47 1/4 x 59 13/16 in.) Case (Painted wooden base): 124.5 x 66 x 172.1 cm (49 x 26 x 67 3/4 in.)

Accession Number

1972.918

Medium or Technique

Marble, from Carrara, Italy

On View

Classical Roman Gallery (Gallery 213)

Collections

The Ancient World

Classifications

Sculpture

Originally the relief presented the portrait busts of an unknown man and his wife within deeply scalloped, shell-like niches which were surrounded by ornamental wreaths. This fragment preserves the faces of the two intact except for damage from exposure, but most of the bust and left-hand side of the male’s niche have been broken away. Rosettes accentuate the spaces formed between the outlines of the niches, and a chubby Eros, poised on a tiny toe, looks on from the outer edge to the right of the woman’s tondo. He rests his right hand on her wreath and holds a ceremonial umbrella in his left. The composition was probably completed on the missing end by a similar Amorino, proceeding this time from the opposite direction, with an appropriate attribute (perhaps a torch) in the near hand and the left hand resting on the man’s tondo as if it were a shield.

Although unique, this combination of decorative Amorini, foliate tondi, and naturalistic portraits is predictable in the art of the last decades of the Roman Republic and the first two decades of the Roman Empire. The double portrait relief of Antistius Sarculo and his wife Antistia in the British Museum has similarly wreathed and scalloped niches and has been dated between 50 and 30 B.C., which roughly corresponds to the popularity of the nodus hairstyle worn by the woman.

The whole left end of this relief has been broken off irregularly, and the upper right corner is missing. Chipping mars both the upper and the lower edges of the front, especially the middle of the lower edge. However, the most significant damage to the two portrait heads of the deceased has been caused by weathering, which has worn away the lowest parts of the two faces and left the man’s right cheek deeply pitted. A deep gold patina covers the entire surface, with some deeper brown incrustations in the recesses of the niches, on the neck and bust of the female, and on the rough surface around the guardian Amorino.

Scientific Analysis:

University of South Florida Lab No. 8418: Isotope ratios - delta13C +2.1 / delta18O -1.8,

Attribution - Carrara. Justification - C and O isotopes, fine grain, Italian Augustan style

Provenance

By 1972: with Miss Jeannette Brun, Dufourstrasse 119, Zurich 8008, Switzerland (said to come from a Swiss private collection); purchased by MFA from Miss Jeannette Brun, October 11, 1972

Credit Line

Mary S. and Edward Jackson Holmes Fund