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image M61

End of a sarcophagus: a Griffin

Antonine (138-192 AD) to mid 3rd century AD

Greek island marble

Height: 84cm
Width: 71cm
Thickness: 12cm

Museum number: M61

Vermeule catalogue number: Vermeule 313help-vermeule-catalogue-number

Curatorial note

Beneath a plain-fillet moulding strip and above another similar moulding, a lion-footed griffin sits right, head erect and back, his off-wing protruding in profile in front of his chest. From the left-hand (as viewed from the front panel) end of a large sarcophagus.

An excellent, probably early example of a method of treating the off-wing in profile in Roman relief, which enjoys a wide vogue in all media in this category from the high Antonine age until the middle of the third century. In figures of the winged Victory on Roman Imperial coins the technique is especially popular in the last decade of the second and the first four decades of the third centuries. The griffins on the ends of a medallion sarcophagus in the British Museum show the same treatment of the off-wing in relief behind the head1; see also the left end of the 'Season Sarcophagus' (located off the right side of the Via Torlonia entrance to the Villa Torlonia Albani in Rome)2 and finally, the two slightly smaller ends cut from the same sarcophagus in the Museo Chiaramonti in the Vatican.3

Carving such as this is hard to date more than in general terms, for while sarcophagus fronts change radically over time their ends are more stereotyped and less sensitive to stylistic trends. There are, of course, many other comparable examples on vastly differing classes of sarcophagi , see also note to Soane M560 (Vermeule 312).

1 S. Reinach, Répertoire de Reliefs Grecs et Romains, Paris, 1909-12, Vol II, p. 470, figs. 2,3,4.
2 G. Hanfmann, The Season Sarcophagus in Dumbarton Oaks, Cambridge (Mass.), 1952, p. 177, no. 475, dated third quarter of the Third Century.
3 Nos. 20, 22; 1364, 1366; W. Amelung, Die Skulpturen des Vaticanischen Museums, Berlin, I, nos. 235a, 239a, pl. 36.

Provenance help-art-provenance

Unrecorded.

Literature

Description of Sir John Soane's Museum, 1930, p. 74, fig. 42 (Upper left).
P. Thornton and H. Dorey, A Miscellany of Objects from Sir John Soane's Museum, London 1992, fig. 60.


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