Sarcophagus with triumph of Dionysos

Roman
Imperial Period
about A.D. 215–225


Catalogue Raisonné

Sculpture in Stone (MFA), no. 244; Sculpture in Stone and Bronze (MFA), p. 113 (additional published references); Highlights: Classical Art (MFA), p. 108-109.

Dimensions

Overall: 77.5 x 208cm (30 1/2 x 81 7/8in.) Other (Body): 59cm (23 1/4in.) Other (lid): 18.5cm (7 5/16in.) Case (Rolling steel pedestal with wooden skirts/plex-bonnet): 77.5 x 228.6 x 76.5 cm (30 1/2 x 90 x 30 1/8 in.)

Accession Number

1972.650

Medium or Technique

Marble, from the island of Proconnesus in the Sea of Marmara near Istanbul

On View

Classical Roman Gallery (Gallery 213)

Collections

The Ancient World

Classifications

Sculpture

The god of wine and dramatic festivals, in full choral attitude, steps into a biga drawn by two Indian elephants with fringed cloths on their backs. He is supported by his companion the satyr Ampelos and attended by the complete Dionysiac train of Sileni, pans, satyrs, maenads, and the exotic animals of his triumph in India.

The inscription reads M~VIBIO~M~FIL~LIBERALI~PRAET~M~VIBIVS~AGESILAVS~IVNIOR~NVTRICIO~SUO~FEC (“Marcus Vibius Agesilaus junior made (it) for Marcus Vibius Liberalis, son of Marcus, the praetor, his foster-father” ).

The condition is, generally speaking, superb, with the small breaks, missing limbs, and absent attributes apparent from illustrations. The surfaces, particularly of the nude or seminude figures, retain their high polish. There are no restorations of the kind that ruin so many sarcophagi. The sections cracked or broken through have been carefully rejoined, and the missing pieces of the lid hardly detract from the visual sweep and rhythm of the triumphal procession. The three-volume corpus of Dionysiac sarcophagi reveals that very few of these monuments of Greek art in the Roman Empire have their original (or any) lids preserved in any form or condition.

Inscription

An inscription along the lower edge reads, "Marcus Vibius Agesilaus Junior made it (i.e. set up this monument?) for Marcus Liberalis, the son of Marcus, the Praetor, his tutor" or "who brought him up."

Provenance

By date unknown: collection of an international banker in northwest Europe; by 1972: with Miss Jeannette Brun, Dufourstrasse 119, Zurich 8008, Switzerland; purchased by MFA from Miss Jeannette Brun, June 7, 1972

Credit Line

William Francis Warden Fund