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image S139

A Roman funerary urn (cinerarium) with pilasters in the form of dolphins at the front corners with a garland between, and separate lid.

69-96 AD
Flavian, according to Vermeule and Sinn.

Grey Greek island marble

Height: 25cm
Height (excluding lid): 18.5cm
Width (lid): 26.5cm
Length (lid): 19cm

Museum number: S139

Vermeule catalogue number: Vermeule 336help-vermeule-catalogue-number

Curatorial note

The recessed name plate of this urn is set between two broad moulding fillets enriched with incised line ornament. At the corners are fluted pilasters around which two dolphins are coiled; from their tails a garland hangs between, below the name plate. In the area above, a bird is pecking at an overturned basket of fruit.

The urn is inscribed:

The general classification for this urn is with those which have the front relief dominated by a festooned garland; in this case the tails of the dolphins at the corners are used to support the ends in place of the more general Ammon or horned animal heads. (see W. Altmann, Dir rörmischen Grabaltäre der Kaiserzeit, Berlin, 1905, chapter VI). For the motive of dolphins enframing the carved frontal area of cinerary urns, compare The British School at Rome, Catalogue of ancient sculptures preserved in the municipal collections of Rome: The sculptures of the Museo Capitolino, ed. H.S. Jones, 2 vols, Oxford, 1912, p.98, no.19a, pl.33; (see also cat. 329 note ?? CHECK) the description of that urn as cursory work of the Flavian period might refer equally well to this example. Another related specimen, which also has the incised-line ornamentation, is in Berlin (Königliche Museen zu Berlin, Beschreibung der antiken Skulpturen, Berlin, 1891, p.440, no.1136, see also the body of p.438, no.1130).

Provenance help-art-provenance

Shown in the Drg. 1813.1. Shown in J. Gandy's watercolour drawing "The Back Parlour", Pitzhanger Manor (prior to 1810); the modern vase has since been removed. Perhaps the urn purchased from Lord Mendip's Sale, 18 May 1802, Lot.46, £8.18.6, described as coming from the Borghese Collection and having been found in 1740 in Rome, at the Villa S. Conte Perucchi, opposite the Villa Borghese.


Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum VI, iv.1, 24844.
A 278 x 221 mm brown wash drawing, together with the urn's full history since discovery in 1740, is folio 119 of the P.L. Ghezzi Sketchbook in the Greece and Rome Department, British Museum.
L. Guerrini, Marmi antichi nei disegni di Pier Leone Ghezzi, 1971, 120, no. 122, pl. 81,3.
F. Sinn, Stadtrömische Marmorurnen, No. 239, p. 151.

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