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image M424

Cinerarium with Genii at the corners holding a garland, name plate with medallion portrait below it, and separate lid.

Height: 44cm
Height (body): 26cm
Height (lid): 9.5cm
Width (lid): 40.5cm
Length (lid): 32.5cm

Museum number: M424

Vermeule catalogue number: Vermeule 339help-vermeule-catalogue-number

Curatorial note

In the front centre the name plate in an inset waterleaf enframement. At the corners two winged genii above two eagles; the former hold the rich garland suspended between them. Within the garland, a medallion portrait of a bearded man in a toga, flanked by two facing dolphins. The curved pediment lid has tragic mask antefixae and facing Grecian Sphinxes holding a garland within.


This urn is interesting in that while the inscription appears to be a Neoclassical addition1, the portrait medallion is genuine, although post-dating the original carving of the urn by perhaps as much as two hundred years. A similar square cinerarium with a small medallion portrait of the deceased is the urn of Hamillus and his wife, Pieris, in the British Museum2; while the practice of leaving the name plate uninscribed in antiquity (as in Soane urn M425 (Vermeule cat. 331) and of adding a forged modern inscription was not at all uncommon (as the Cook collection example3). The decorative composition of this Soane specimen is an elaboration of an excellent parallel example, the cinerarium of Sextus Licinius Dionysius, in the Museum at Fiesoli [Fiesole near Florence]; within the garland held by genii of this type is a sea beast.

1 For an inscription dedicated to Terentius Varro, Consul in 23 AD and inscribed references to his family, see Mustilli, Museo Mussolini, p. 22, no. 13 and refs. The forgers of inscriptions often used names etc. which were known from authentic inscriptions or other antique sources. Forged inscriptions in different kinds of media are no rarity. Volume VI of the CIL compiles most of them, a huge number of which were 'invented' by Pirro Ligorio, one of the main 'forgers'. But in the 18th century several of the inscriptions, like the many restorations were an attempt to make things look 'more authentic' for commercial purposes. (See essay on Ligorio inscriptions)
2 British Museum Marbles, V, pl. 7, no. 3; S. Reinach, Répertoire de Reliefs Grecs et Romains, 3 vols, Paris, 1909-12, II, p. 516, no. 3.
3 Journal of Hellenic Studies, XXVIII, 1908, p. 40, no. 65.

Provenance help-art-provenance

Shown in J. Gandy's watercolour drawing "The Back Parlour" of Pitzhanger Manor (prior to 1810) with marble vase Vermeule 343 (Soane Museum no. M932) placed on top.

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