Bronze cista (toiletries box)

Period: Late Classical

Date: ca. 350–325 B.C.

Culture: Praenestine

Medium: Bronze

Dimensions: H. 23 in. (58.4 cm)

Classification: Bronzes

Credit Line: Gift of Courtland Field Bishop, 1922

Accession Number: 22.84.1a, b


This is the largest and finest of the Museum's engraved cistae. The cylindrical body is decorated with three friezes, an unusual treatment. On the major frieze is a series of episodes from the Trojan War told in Homer's Iliad, including what seems to be the sacrifice of the Trojan prisoners. The minor friezes, above and below, depict battle scenes and chariot races but also include unrelated subjects, for example griffins attacking a horse. The chariot race continues on the solid-cast lion-paw feet. The poorly preserved engravings on the lid probably depict winged nereids riding on dolphins and sea monsters while carrying the armor of Achilles, the major Greek hero of the Trojan War. The handle, one of the finest of this type, shows two nude winged genii carrying the body of a dead soldier. The treatment of wing feathers and hair is especially delicate.