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Roman Lead Side Panel from Sarcophagus
Roman Lead Side Panel from Sarcophagus  - Ancient Art Style Roman Lead Side Panel from Sarcophagus  - Roman Lead Side Panel from Sarcophagus  -
Ref : 99453
18 000 €
Period :
BC to 10th century
Medium :
Lead
Dimensions :
l. 66.14 inch X H. 12.99 inch
Ancient Art  - Roman Lead Side Panel from Sarcophagus BC to 10th century - Roman Lead Side Panel from Sarcophagus
Desmet Galerie

Classical Sculpture


+32 (0)486 02 16 09
Roman Lead Side Panel from Sarcophagus

Roman Lead Side Panel from Sarcophagus

Extensively decorated rectangular lead side panel,
Roman Empire, Eastern Mediterranean
2nd – 3rd century A.D.

Provenance: Hyatt Lodge – Mc Donald’s Campus (Oak
Brook, IL -U.S.A.) bought in NY pré 1990


Dimensions 168 X 33 cm (66 X 13 in.)


The present lavishly decorated lead panel, dating to the 2nd or 3rd century A.D., was part of a Roman sarcophagus with various repetitive motifs and ornamental elements executed in deep relief. A series of Ionic columns divides the central part of the panel into five smaller square panels. The central square as well as both outermost panels figure Gorgon masks framed by vine leaves and dolphins, while the two remaining panels show a crouching winged sphinx surrounded by both vine and laurel leaves. The upper frieze of the panel is exquisitely embellished with a row of laurel leaves. The lower part of the panel is now missing but must have contained a similar frieze with vine leaves or other foliate motifs.

In Imperial Roman times lead coffins were mainly produced in the Eastern part of the Mediterranean, most notably in the former Phoenician cities of Tyre, Sidon and Beirut. From there they were transported to the western regions of the Empire. The specific decorative elements and patterns that can be observed on the present specimen together with its general design and execution suggest that it must have originated in a workshop in Tyre.

The decoration of sarcophagi from the Tyre workshop was typically based on an architectural design: each end panel would feature a temple façade with a “Syrian” arch, while the long side panels were commonly embellished with twisted characteristic Corinthian or Ionic columns. In general the frames in between are abundantly decorated with Dionysiac and protective motifs typical of Roman funerary art, such as wine vessels or drinking cups (kantharoi), dolphins, squatting sphinxes, walking lions and Medusa or Gorgon masks. The sphinx, like the griffin for example, had an apotropaic function as a friendly guardian of the tomb. The compositions on these Syrian sarcophagi were usually further completed with a variety of twisted cord decorations and rosettes, and featured friezes of laurel leaves or foliate scrolls.
The often-repetitive decoration was created after the manner of terra sigillata by pressing relief-carved stamps into sand-cast sheets of lead. The edges of these stamps can sometimes still be seen upon close examination of these sarcophagi. Lead coffins were generally encased inside larger stone or wooden sarcophagi or in rock-cut cavities in the floors of tombs and were actually often not meant to be seen and admired, unlike the marble ones.

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Ancient Art