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A columnar, portaled Roman cinerarium

Marble, probably Greek marble

Height: 53cm
Height (excluding lid): 43cm
Height (body): 32.5cm
Width (lid): 34cm
Length (lid): 33cm

Inscription language: Latin

Museum number: M374

Vermeule catalogue number: Vermeule 322help-vermeule-catalogue-number

On display: Catacombs
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

In the centre front a garland above the inscribed name plate; below, two supporting Tuscan pilasters either side of a closed panelled door. The base decorated with a frieze of rosettes (?neoclassical). Engaged composite columns at the corners. The lid, with antefixae at the corners, has a pair of griffins guarding a foliate 'vase-candelabrum' within the pediment.



For the general classification according to type of decorative motive, see W. Altmann, Dir römischen Grabaltäre der Kaiserzeit, Berlin, 1905, Chapter XII, "Verwendung von Säulen". He traces the ancestry and development of the sepulchral altar and cinerary urn with the pilaster as the chief feature of the relief ornament. The closed door and other architectural characteristics, including the columns and acroteia, highlight the idea of the urn as a house, or a temple for the dead.1

Soane made extensive purchases of antiquities at sales in 1801 and 1802, the pieces destined for his new country house at Pitzhanger Manor, Ealing, then under construction. This urn is shown in J.M. Gandy watercolour design for the library at Pitzhanger Manor (SM P94); it is shown with marble vase Soane M409 (Vermeule 261) placed on it.

1 F. Sinn, Römische Marmorurnen, No. 157, p. 131., pp. 63-65 with further literature.

Provenance help-art-provenance

Purchased at Lord Bessborough's Sale, Christie's 7 April 1801, Lot 40 (in the Mansion) 'A small upright Cinerary Urn, emblematically Sculptured with Door-way, Inscription &c and the sides ornamented with the Lotus, in a bold style', £9.19.6.


Description of Sir John Soane's Museum, 1930, p.69, fig. 38.

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