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Roman funerary urn (cinerarium) with a garlanded front flanked by heads of Jupiter Ammon.

Pentelic marble, with restorations in Luna marble

Height (including feet): 34cm, maximum
Height (body): 20cm
Width (lid): 30cm
Length (lid): 22.5cm

Museum number: M404

Vermeule catalogue number: Vermeule 333help-vermeule-catalogue-number

Curatorial note

On this urn, between multiple fillet mouldings, is a wide, framed name plate, flanked by Ammon heads from which hang garlands. Large birds perch on and support the garlands below the name plate, and smaller ones beneath and there are eagles at the lower corners. The ends show large hares feeding on grapes.

Inscribed: (Left line is ancient); P.MALLIVSATIMETVS

For the history of this urn, the inscription, and its prototype, see Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum (C.I.L.) vi loc.cit.

Cinerary urns with decorative garlands supported by stylised heads of Jupiter Ammon, symbols of Eternity, are grouped together into one category by Altmann (R.G.K., Ch.VIII, "Die Verwendung von Ammonsköpfen"), according to the development of this motive in corner-decoration.

In this class of rectangular cinerarium (chest and lid) belongs an example from Italy in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (1972.15), which can be dated to the Flavian period from the style of carving ad choice of quasi-official decorative motives. The ashes of an imperial freedman may have been placed within, his name orvita is not inscribed on the plate (a circumstance mentioned in connection with Soane urns), but these details may have appeared on a plaque set elsewhere in the tomb-complex or may have been added in paint.

Provenance help-art-provenance

Shown in Drg. 1813.1; at least five other rectangular urns are depicted but are difficult to identify positively in their distorted perspective. Since Pitzhanger Manor, where Soane had displayed the bulk of his urns, was sold in 1810, the urns were probably at No.13 Lincoln's Inn Fields from that time. This example may have been purchased by Soane at Lord Mendip's Sale 18 May 1802, Lot 36, £7.7.0, since this urn is shown in Gandy's watercolour drawing of "The Back Parlour" of Pitzhanger Manor. From Piranesi's Museum.


Description of Sir John Soane's Museum, 1930, p.68, fig. 37.
Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum (C.I.L.) vi, iii, 21869.
Soane: Connoisseur and Collector, NY 1996

If you have any further information about this object, please contact us: worksofart@soane.org.uk