Marble relief with the Death of Priam

Roman
Hellenistic or Early Imperial Period
about 50 B.C.–A.D.50


Catalogue Raisonné

Sculpture in Stone (MFA), no. 234; Sculpture in Stone and Bronze (MFA), p. 112 (additional published references).

Dimensions

Height x width x depth: 38 x 49 x 5 cm (14 15/16 x 19 5/16 x 1 15/16 in.)

Accession Number

04.15

Medium or Technique

Marble, from mainland Greece (Attic?)

On View

Krupp Gallery (Gallery 215A)

Collections

The Ancient World

Classifications

Sculpture

The back is rough, the edges partially smoothed. The upper right-hand corner is broken off; the surface is worn and has been cleaned; the faces of Neoptolemos and Hekabe are somewhat damaged.
Neoptolemos drags King Priam from the altar of the palace at Troy and prepares to kill the old man with a short sword. Hekabe, kneeling on the altar behind Priam, stretches out her arms in horror and in an appeal for mercy. Neoptolemos wears a plumed helmet and a mantle and carries a large, round shield on his left arm. Priam is clothed in a Persian cap, a sleeveless chiton, and a himation about his lower limbs, while Hekabe is dressed as an Athenian goddess of the Pheidian period and later, Doric chiton with overfold and himation drawn up over the back of her head.
The relief was re-used by a Roman woman to decorate her tomb. The inscription on the side of the altar reads:
AVRELIASECVNDA
SEVIVA. FECIT.SIBI.ET.SV
IS
(these two letters on the bottom molding)

“Aurelia Secunda in her lifetime made it for herself and her family.” The inscription is dated about A.D. 200.
The relief must date in the late Republic or early imperial period, being based on a work of sculpture or painting made in Greece in the late fifth century B.C. The style has been long recognized as that of the frieze of the temple of Apollo at Bassae. Although allegedly found near Florence, the death of Priam relief was probably carved in Rome or southern Italy.

Provenance

Said by Carlo Strozzi (b. 1587 – d. 1670) to have been found in Fiesole [see note 1]. By 1743, Panciatichi family, Florence [see note 2]; by descent to Ferdinand Panciatichi-Ximenes d’Aragona (b. 1813 – d. 1897), Florence; April 3-16, 1902, Panciatichi-Ximenes sale, Palazzo Panciatichi, Florence, lot 961 [see note 3]. 1904, sold by Edward Perry Warren (b. 1860 - d. 1928), London, to the MFA [see note 4]. (Accession Date: January 19, 1904)

NOTES:
[1] H. Heydemann, “Osservazioni sulla Morte di Priamo e di Astianatte,” Mittheilungen des Kaiserlich deutschen Archaeologischen Instituts, Romische Abtheilung, vol. 3 (Rome, 1888), 101-102, notes that Strozzi prepared a manuscript on Florentine inscriptions and stated that this relief was found in Fiesole, near Florence. However, Hans Dütschke, Antike Bildwerke in Oberitalien, vol. 2, Zerstreute Antike Bildwerke in Florenz (Leipzig, 1875), p. 242-243, cat. no. 519, doubts that it was excavated in Fiesole.

[2] Antonius Franciscus Gori, Inscriptionum Antiquarum Graecarum et Romanarum, part III (Florence, 1743), p. 138, no. 148, where the relief is recorded in the Panciatichi collection.

[3] Many thanks to Jörg Deterling for his assistance in locating this record.

[4] The total purchase price for MFA accession nos. 04.6 – 04.37 was $74,100.

Credit Line

Henry Lillie Pierce Fund