Marble sarcophagus with garlands

Period: Severan

Date: ca. A.D. 200–225

Culture: Roman

Medium: Marble, Proconnesian

Dimensions: Overall: 53 x 88in. (134.6 x 223.5cm)

Classification: Stone Sculpture

Credit Line: Gift of Abdo Debbas, 1870

Accession Number: 70.1

Description

This sarcophagus, found in Tarsus in Asia Minor, is the collection's only complete sarcophagus of the Asiatic type. Its design is typical of the Prokonessos workshop; it is decorated on all four sides with oak leaf garlands supported by Nikai and Erotes, a small tabula, and Gorgon faces in the lunettes, and a steeply pitched gabled lid with akroteria. The back panel remains in its half-finished state, with the decorative forms only roughly indicated. Various marble quarries exported half-finished sarcophagi to Rome and other areas, to be finished at their destination according to clients' wishes. Many were used with some or all elements unfinished, perhaps due to time or financial constraints, or to an aesthetic choice. In this case, the client may have decided to display the sarcophagus against a wall instead of in the round, and thus chose not to have the back more fully carved. The tabula is normally meant to contain an inscription, though many are left blank like this one.
The leaflike tile pattern on the lid, also only partially finished, is more typical of Attic sarcophagi than Asiatic. The pediments of the lid feature mythological vignettes of Eros and Psyche; on one side, Eros aims an arrow at Psyche in order to wake her from a deathlike sleep, while on the other, the two embrace. A frieze of erotes hunting lions and other animals appears on the front of the lid; erotes engaged in pleasurable activities are common in funerary art.

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