The First Art Newspaper on the Net   Established in 1996 United States Friday, May 25, 2018

Amherst College debuts "once-in-a-Generation" acquisition: Ancient Roman sarcophagus
The sarcophagus originally held the remains of two young children, a brother and sister.

AMHERTS, MASS.- Amherst College's Mead Art Museum recently unveiled an ancient Roman sarcophagus notable for its exquisite sculpted decoration and poignant inscription. Made of Carrara marble and hailing from Italy sometime in the third quarter of the 2nd century CE, the sarcophagus features sea nymphs riding on the backs of sea centaurs, while cupids fly overhead. "The sarcophagus has exceptional visual impact due to its impressive scale, lively marine subject, and pleasing symmetrical composition," says Dr. Pamela Russell, Head of Education at the Mead. "It well illustrates the mature classical style," she adds, "while also heralding some of the major stylistic changes that mark the end of the classical age."

The sarcophagus originally held the remains of two young children, a brother and sister. They were 6 and 10 years old when they died, according to the inscription, and their father had predeceased them. Did the children die at the same time? "I assume the children died within a few days of each other," says Russell, who suggests they may have been victims of the so-called Antonine plague that spread across the Roman Empire in the years 165-180.

"In this sarcophagus," the Latin inscription reads, "the unhappy mother buried two bodies, her children, forever to live in sorrow. She survives her children and leads a most miserable life-her husband snatched away by death, the father of these poor little ones." Poet Richard Wilbur-second U.S. poet laureate, an Amherst College graduate, and a professor in the Amherst College English Department-has translated the hexameter inscription into two rhymed couplets:

In this sarcophagus, two children lie
Whose mother's eyes shall nevermore be dry.
Her husband's gone, who sired these luckless dears.
His childless widow faces empty years.

"It is unique and moving," says Amherst Classics professor Frederick Griffiths, who was instrumental in acquiring the sarcophagus for the Mead, "the way the mother sets her twofold grief beside the timeless, indifferent splendor of the sea creatures." He predicts the marble tomb will become "the capstone of the Mead's small and exquisite collection of antiquities."

The ancient coffin was eventually repurposed as a fountain or watering trough, and subsequently used as decoration in the courtyards of two Roman palazzos. It made its way to the United States in the early 20th century, and for many years was in the collection of the Princeton University Art Museum. The Mead acquired it from Princeton in 2012.

In an era when most antiquities with a legally and ethically "clean" provenance are securely held onto by museums, the Mead was fortunate to have Sarcophagus with Sea Creatures become available for purchase. "I never imagined, in my entire career, having the opportunity to participate in a museum acquisition of such an important antiquity," says Mead director, Dr. Elizabeth E. Barker. Given the infrequency with which works that meet the strict criteria of the UNESCO convention concerning antiquities become available to museums, Barker remains "gratefully amazed to have secured such a rare specimen for Amherst."Its availability, says the chair of the Mead advisory board, Charles (Sandy) Wilkes, was recognized as "perhaps a once-in-a-generation opportunity to purchase a significant work that helps strengthen the Mead's collection in a clearly important area."

The sarcophagus, as part of the exhibition This Just In: Additions to the Collection from Pompeii to Today, remains on view through Sunday, Dec. 29.

Today's News

October 9, 2013

"Surrealism and the Dream" opens at the Thyssen-Bornemisza museum in Madrid

"Avigdor Arikha: Works from 1966-2010" opens at Marlborough Fine Art in London

Last de Kooning painting consigned to Keno Auctions by artist's caregiver Grace Tafe

French reign at Bonhams New York European Paintings auction on November 6

New book from SteidlDangin: Hustlers by New York based photographer Philip-Lorca diCorcia

Rainbow selection of fancy colored diamonds, long-held fine art collection headline Morphy's Nov. 1-2 auction

Joint works by L.S. Lowry and Harold Riley collected by top 70s football manager for sale at Bonhams

In an unusual take on what constitutes an art gallery, artists shine at Hong Kong contemporary art show

Collaborative exhibition represents photographer's first career-spanning presentation

Amherst College debuts "once-in-a-Generation" acquisition: Ancient Roman sarcophagus

The San Diego Museum of Art receives $1.5 million donation from Conrad Prebys and Debbie Turner

Julien's Auctions hosts The Trilogy Collection: Props & Costumes From Middle Earth

"Kabuki: Japanese Theatre Woodblock Prints" opens at National Museum of Scotland

Exhibition of paintings by pioneering Palestinian artist Samia Halaby opens at Ayyam Gallery in London

Two new exhibitions explore the influence and history of the kibbutz on art and Jewish life

Major exhibition of photographic and video works by Willie Doherty at City Factory Gallery

Alex Schweder: Rehearsal Space at the Glass House

Mid-career survey of New Orleans artist Gina Phillips on view at The Ogden Museum of Southern Art

Erskine, Hall & Coe Ltd. opens exhibition of works by Jennifer Lee

QUAD in Derby presents the first UK showing of Monocular by Lindsay Seers

Most Popular Last Seven Days

1.- New Rembrandt found after being bought at London auction

2.- Exhibition at Fotohof focuses on groups in society who are at risk of marginalisation

3.- John Brennan collection of Rock n Roll memorabilia offered at RR Auction

4.- A Bob Dylan guitar fetches $495,000 at auction

5.- Exhibition in San Francisco focuses on the latter half of René Magritte's career

6.- 'Mad' king Ludwig II of Bavaria lost gift to composer Richard Wagner gets rare show

7.- New Royal Academy of Arts opens in celebration of its 250th anniversary

8.- Researchers uncover Anne Frank's 'dirty jokes'in her diary

9.- New York art sales near $3 billion in two weeks as uber-rich hunt trophies

10.- Berlin's Ethnological Museum returns grave-plundered artefacts to Alaska

Museums, Exhibits, Artists, Milestones, Digital Art, Architecture, Photography,
Photographers, Special Photos, Special Reports, Featured Stories, Auctions, Art Fairs,
Anecdotes, Art Quiz, Education, Mythology, 3D Images, Last Week, .


Ignacio Villarreal
Editor & Publisher:Jose Villarreal - Consultant: Ignacio Villarreal Jr.
Art Director: Juan José Sepúlveda Ramírez

Royalville Communications, Inc
Founder's Site. The most varied versions
of this beautiful prayer.
to a Mexican poet.

The First Art Newspaper on the Net. The Best Versions Of Ave Maria Song Junco de la Vega Site Ignacio Villarreal Site
Tell a Friend
Dear User, please complete the form below in order to recommend the Artdaily newsletter to someone you know.
Please complete all fields marked *.
Sending Mail
Sending Successful