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Roman cinerary vase carved with bucrania (ox skulls) and garlands

Pentelic marble

Height (excluding modern square marble base): 54cm, maximum
Height (excluding lid and square base): 46cm
Height (central body between the section below the lid and the pedestal): 30cm
Circumference: 85cm, maximum
Diameter (lid): 14cm
Diameter: 27cm, maximum

Museum number: A44

Vermeule catalogue number: Vermeule 347help-vermeule-catalogue-number

On display: Lobby to the Breakfast Room
All spaces are in No. 13 Lincoln's Inn Fields unless identified as in No. 12, Soane's first house. For tours https://www.soane.org/your-visit

Curatorial note

This urn features four bucrania [ox skulls] between which hang filleted garlands of fruit, pinecones, leaves and flowers, within a fillet and waterleaf moulding. In the areas above and between, the inscription, a crane, a patera and a strigil (?) and bee. Inscribed, within the hang of a garland:

C. ET. ) L

in commemoration of prosperous Roman citizen whose ashes it would originally have contained.

This vase may be of questionable date. It is possible that the body is Roman but the lid and section between body and pedestal are 18th century. The urn shows clear evidence of having been restored in the workshop of Giovanni Battista Piranesi. Piranesi’s interest in antiquities extended to collecting and restoring often fragmentary pieces of sculpture or decorative art. In this case, the foot of the urn decorated with strigilation and a guilloche design is typical of the type of neo-classical ornament produced by Piranesi’s workshop as is the lid decorated with floral motifs. It is likely that only part of the drum of the urn is antique. The rest has been restored to provide an attractive antiquity for the Grand Tourist market.

Provenance help-art-provenance

Rome; purchased by Soane at the Adam Sale in 1818, as part of lot 96.


Corpus Inscriptiorum Latinarum, VI, III, 22189.
Robert Adam: the Creative Mind, exhibition catalogue addendum for Frick Collection, 1997.

Exhibition history

Robert Adam, The Creative Mind: from the Sketch to the Finished Drawing, Sir John Soane's Museum, 4 October 1996 - 1 March 1997; The Frick Collection, New York, December 1997 - April 1998; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, May - June 1998; The Octagon Museum, Washington, July 1998 - January 1999; Scottish National Gallery, Edinburgh, February - March 1999
'Bob the Roman': Heroic Antiquity and the Architecture of Robert Adam, Sir John Soane's Museum, London, 27 June - 27 September 2003; New York School of Interior Design Gallery, 29 September - 4 December 2004
The Adam Brothers in Rome: Drawings from the Grand Tour, Sir John Soane's Museum, London, 25 September 2008 - 14 February 2009
Death and Memory: Soane and the Architecture of Legacy, Sir John Soane's Museum, London, 23 October 2015 - 2 April 2016

Soane collections online is being continually updated. If you wish to find out more or if you have any further information about this object please contact us: worksofart@soane.org.uk