Sarcophagus or large urn with cover

Italic, Etruscan
Hellenistic Period
Late 3rd century B.C.


Catalogue Raisonné

Sculpture in Stone (MFA), no. 385; Sculpture in Stone and Bronze (MFA), p. 116 (additional published references).

Dimensions

Height (max.) x length (of cover): 104 x 75 cm (40 15/16 x 29 1/2 in.)

Accession Number

13.2860a

Medium or Technique

Limestone (possibly travertine), the chest is smoother and less porous than the lid

Not On View

Collections

The Ancient World

Classifications

Vessels

This object is one of five ash urns found in a tomb of the Velsi family of ancient Chiusi. This urn is the largest and best preserved of the group. Its inscription, “”FASTIA VELSI LARZL, VELUS PUIA,” which extends across the front and part of the left end of the lid, identifies the cremated remains as those of “Fastia Velsi, wife of Larza Velu.”

The woman reclining on two cushions is likely an idealized portrait of Fastia Velsi herself. She wears a sleeveless tunic held in by a belt, a veil, and a mantle which she holds in her right hand. On her right foot, which protrudes slightly beyond the edge of the lid, is a sandal. Around her neck is a torque and on her right arm two twisted bracelets. A slight ridge on the third finger of the left hand may indicate a ring. On the urn’s front is a Skylla, a winged marine monster with the torso of a young woman and coiled fishtails instead of legs. On its forehead is a pair of small wings, in its left hand a sword (?), in its right a stone (?). Many Etruscans believed that the journey to the Underworld involved a dangerous sea voyage.

Painted on the molding above the panel is an egg-and-dart pattern; on each side a fluted column. A patera in a sunken panel decorates each end. The portion below the panels, on both front and ends, is hewn into the form of a double scroll. The back of the chest is unadorned. The object’s pigmentation includes black, brown, pale blue, red, and pink.

A small spot on the back of the lid is restored, and the ends of the chest below the panels are slightly damaged. Otherwise, the condition of the ensemble is excellent, and a great deal of the paint remains.

Inscription

The inscription reads as follows: "FASTIA VELSI LARZL, VELUS PUIA," interpreted as: "Fastia Velsi, wife of Larza Velu"

Provenance

About 1879, discovered on property belonging to the Count Lucioli, Chiusi, Italy (one of a group of objects said to have been found together in a tomb near Chiusi, probably in the Colle Lucioli just east of Chiusi, MFA 13.2860-13.2901). By 1913: with Raoul Tolentino, 57 Via Sistina, Rome; purchased by MFA from Raoul Tolentino, November 6, 1913

Credit Line

Francis Bartlett Donation of 1912