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Roman cinerarium with genii holding reversed torches at the corners

2nd century AD

Pentelic marble

Height: 37cm, maximum
Height (body): 19cm
Width (lid): 32cm
Length (lid): 25cm

Museum number: M726

Vermeule catalogue number: Vermeule 340help-vermeule-catalogue-number

Curatorial note

On the front, between fillets, is an enframed name plate flanked by mourning Genii seated on rocks and leaning on reversed torches. On the two sides/ends are griffins, walking towards the front.

Inscribed:
D . M .
IVVENTIVS
PROFVTVRVS
ONESIDI
COJVGI . B
M . F .


The family of which Inventius Profuturus was a libertus was prominent in Roman affairs in the years 70-200 AD.

The motive of the mourning or sleeping funerary Genius probably came to cinerary urns from contemporary sarcophagi (see Soane M1025/Vermeule 178 for derivation from the Hellenistic fountain statue of the Sleeping Eros); Soane's contemporary the great neoclassical sculptor Antonio Canova, popularised the reversed-torch Genius in his sepulchral monuments in St. Peter's in Rome and elsewhere.

Provenance help-art-provenance

This urn was in the Museum of Giovanni Battista Piranesi in Rome and and previously "in Museo Victorio" (according to the inscription on Piranesi's engraving of it, see references below). It was purchased by John Soane at Lord Mendip's Sale, Christie's, 18 May 1802, Lot. 55, 'A Ditto [cinerary urn] with Boys, Festoons and Inscription', for £9.9.0. Lord Mendip was Welbore Ellis, first Baron Mendip (1713-1802) whose house, in Twickenham, was formerly the celebrated villa of the poet, Alexander Pope.

Literature

G.B. Piranesi, Vasi, Candelabri, Cippi, 1778, Vol. 1, plate 30.
Description of Sir John Soane's Museum [guidebook], 1930, p.68, fig.37.
Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum, vi, iii, 20944


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