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  • image M472

Fragment of a Roman sarcophagus lid depicting a slain niobid.

Pentelic marble

Height: 28cm
Width: 28cm
Thickness: 19.5cm

Museum number: M472

Vermeule catalogue number: Vermeule 315help-vermeule-catalogue-number

Curatorial note

Above a plain-fillet base moulding the nude upper body of a female figure is seen stretched out, her back and shoulders propped up against a square rock; the missing lower body was covered with drapery, the left end of which extends up and around the left shoulder. Her right arm lies across her lap, whilst her left arm and head hang down, over the rock.

C. Robert has identified this fragment as forming the front left centre of the lid of a Niobid sarcophagus similar to the lids of two examples in Munich and the Vatican.1 These lids show either the full seven or five of the sons and daughters of Niobe lying slain by the arrows of Apollo and Artemis. In both complete examples the daughters occupy the left front of the lid and their brothers the right; in each case the figure corresponding most closely to this Soane fragment is the half-draped daughter closest to the centre of the composition. Niobid sarcophagi of which this example formed a fragment of the lid are placed in the first class by Robert, the division being determined by the presence of Artemis and Apollo in the act of firing their arrows while standing at the left and right extremities of the main front panel. The intervening area of the main relief was occupied by the struggles of the dying or doomed family, their mother, their old nurse, and the pedagogue who endeavours to protect the youngest boy.

1 C. Robert, Die antiken Sarkophag-Reliefs, pl. XCIX, nos. 312, 313.

Provenance help-art-provenance

In Soane's collection by 1811 when it is shown a watercolour view of the Museum by J.M. Gandy, SM P384 (on the wall, behind the north arch of the basement: lower left).


Waagen, Treasures of Art in Great Britain, II, 1853, p.320; idem, Künster und Kunstwerke in England, 1837, I, p.450.
A. Michaelis, Ancient Marbles in Great Britain, trans. C.A.M. Fennell, Cambridge, 1882, p. 480, no.31.
P. Arndt, Photographische Einzelaufnahmen antiker Sculpturen, Munich, 1893-1912, no. 4376a.
C. Robert, Die antiken Sarkophag-Reliefs, III, 3, p.380, no.314, pl.XCIX, etc.

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