Cinerary urn of L. Cassius Colonus Colonianus

Imperial Period
about A.D. 200

Catalogue Raisonné

Sculpture in Stone (MFA), no. 243; Sculpture in Stone and Bronze (MFA), p. 112-113 (additional published references).


Height x width x depth: 37.2 (with lid) x 32.5 x 25 cm (14 5/8 x 12 13/16 x 9 13/16 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Marble, dolomitic marble from the Greek island of Thasos

On View

Roman Art Gallery (Gallery 213)


The Ancient World



This small, sarcophagus-like cinerary chest or urn shows Dionysus and his entourage watching Pentheus being slain by maenads (or by his mother, Agaue, and her sister, Ino). Dionysus is supported by a satyr; two additional satyrs, an old Silenos, a raving maenad, and a gnarled tree fill the vertical space. The lid shows a bearded Silenos reclining to the right and a maenad in similar posture to the left. An Eros brings a wreath to one, while a second Eros is offering a beaker to the other, all in a schema taken from the lids of Season sarcophagi. Torches, lying toward the viewer, their flames curving upward with the relief panel, appear on the sides of the lid.

The inscription reads::
D(is) M(anibus) L(uci) Cassi Coloni Coloniani eq(uitis) R(omani)/vixit ann(is) XXXV
“To the spirits of the dead of Lucius Cassius Colonus Colonianus, a Roman eques; he lived thirty-five years.”

The date is between about A.D. 180 and 220, and the entire ensemble, lid and body, is an excellent essay in later Roman imperial mythological sculpture reduced from the scale of a monumental wall painting or a large sarcophagus relief to the area of this chest. The style is vigorous, the drill being used for many details, as was the case with larger sarcophagi in the third century A.D.

The head of the panther is missing, and there are minor damages. Otherwise, the lid and chest are in excellent condition, with a light yellowish patina and some remains of root marks. The lid was fastened to the body by three metal clamps; they are now lost, but their rectangular cuttings remain on lid and body.

Scientific Analysis:
Marble has been scientifically tested with X-Ray Diffraction and determined to be Dolomitic.
Harvard Lab No. HI223: Isotope ratios - delta13C +3.40 / delta18O -3.88, Attribution - Thasos-Cape Vathy, Justification - Dolomitic by XRD.


By 1964: with Ars Antiqua AG, Haldenstrasse 5, Lucerne, Switzerland (auction 5, Hotel Schweizerhof, Lucerne, November 7, 1964, lot 16); by 1972: with Royal Athena Gallery, 1000 Madison Avenue, New York 10028; purchased by MFA from Royal Athena Gallery, May 10, 1972

Credit Line

Benjamin and Lucy Rowland Fund