Where will you rest when you die?
Have you ever thought what your coffin will look like when you pass away?
I spent a whole afternoon starring at the gorgeous sculptures at the MET. Fascinated by the intricacies and drama of each piece, I lost myself in the surroundings of our ancient civilizations.
The collection of Greek and Roman art at the Met holds more than seventeen thousand pieces, ranging from the Neolithic period to the time of the roman emperor Constantine’s conversion to Christianity in A.D. 312.
It is one of the most comprehensive collections in North America.
I want to share with you a little bit of the ancient Roman’s funerary art, Sarcophagi, impressive monuments carved with Greek mythology.
Roman, about A.D. 220 – 230
Dionysos on a Panther with his attendants the four seasons as winged youths.
Tellus (The Earth) and Oceanus (A River), reclining. Probably found in Rome.
Here is a close-up:
Marble sarcophagus with garlands
Roman, Severan period, ca. A.D. 200-225
This one is adorned at the front and sides by garlands of oak leaves, supported by two erotes and four Victories.
Do you see the Medusa heads filling the spaces above the garlands?
At the center of the front there is a blank inscription tablet.
Along the front lid, six erotes hunt wild animals. You can see the details if you click on the picture, which will take you to my flickr account, where the original size is.
Marble strigilated sarcophagus
Roman, Late Severan, ca. A.D. 220
The marble on this piece is Proconnesian, imported from northwestern Asia Minor.
The lions heads are very impressive, they look hungry, gggrrrrrr, and furious.
I read on the museum notes that this kind of design is very distinctive, and it’s restricted largely to sarcophagi produced in the city of Rome. I love the effect of the front panels.
This piece was missing its lid.
Marble sarcophagus lid with reclining couple
Roman, Severan period, ca. A.D. 220
The couple represents water and earth. The woman is holding a garland and two sheaves of wheat, characteristics of Tellus, goddess of the earth. The man is holding a long reed, and there is some sort of lizard creature next to his left arm.
The wife’s head is unfinished. Apparently this means that her husband died before her, and no one added her portrait after she passed out of existence. Poor woman!
On the other hand, the details on the man’s head are amazing.
Marble sarcophagus with flying erotes holding a clipeus portrait
Roman, Severan period, ca. A.D. 190-200
The portrait center-high up, is of a soldier. He is wearing a military cloak. Tellus and Oceanus, the Earth and Ocean, are reclined below him.
There are figures of Eros and Psyche, personifications of the human soul, at each end of the sarcophagus.
Marble sarcophagus with the myth of Endymion
Roman, Antonine period, mid-2nd century A.D.
Selene, the moon goddess, who crazily loved Endymion, gave him eternal youth with eternal sleep.
Would you want to be asleep if someone grant you eternal youth? I know, I wouldn’t.
The myth says that Selene visited Endymion every night, where he slept. Althought there are many stories to this myth. I read some time ago that Selene and Endymion had fifty daughters called Menae. Fifty! And the guy was asleep, huh?
Marble sarcophagus with the myth of Selene and Endymion
Roman, Severan period, early 3rd century A.D.
The lovers myth of Selene and Endymion became a popular funerary theme in Roman art.
If you notice on the lid, there is an inscription at the center, dedicated to a woman named Arria, by her daughter Anina Hilaria. The portrait of the deceased is carved to the right of the inscription. She looks very sad! I already asked my husband to have my portrait with a smile. I don’t want visitors looking at my sarcophagus getting all melancholic because of my weepy face.
Notice the carving on this piece, very deep, so beautiful.
There is Selene on the center, visiting her loverrr, Endymion. He is reclining at the right. Very dramatic pose, he holds!
The female figure over him is pouring out the magic potion of immortality.
Marble sarcophagus with garlands and the myth of Theseus and Ariadne
Roman, Hadrianic or Early Antonine period, ca. A.D. 130-150
The four seasons of the year are carved on the lid of this piece. Erotes driving taxis,
ok, maybe chariots, pulled by animals. Bears with spring, lions with summer, bulls with fall, and boars with winter.
On the front there are four erotes carrying seasonal garlands.
The garlands are formed by flowers, grapes, pomegranates, laurel and wheat.
If you blow out the picture, you’ll notice the three episodes between the bundles are from the myth of the Greek hero Theseus.
From left to right: “Adriadne giving a thread to Theseus at the entrance to the labyrinth, Theseus slaying the Minotaur, and the sleeping Ariadne abandoned on the island of Naxos, where she will be awakened by the god Dionysos to become his immortal bride.”
Limestone Jewish ossuary with lid
Roman, Jewish, 1st-3rd century A.D.
Ossuaries were used for the burial of bones after the departed’s body had disintegrated.
You could notice the chest was decorated with non-figural design.
Photography copyright of Alba H. Rodriguez