• Christies auction house James Christie logo

    Sale 2007

    Antiquities

    4 June 2008, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 277

    A ROMAN MARBLE SARCOPHAGUS FOR SEMNE

    CIRCA LATE 3RD-EARLY 4TH CENTURY A.D.

    Price Realised  

    Estimate

    A ROMAN MARBLE SARCOPHAGUS FOR SEMNE
    CIRCA LATE 3RD-EARLY 4TH CENTURY A.D.
    Preserving the front panel and parts of each side, the front centered by a garland framing a draped bust of Semne supported by two large Cupids, Semne depicted frontally, her hair center parted, wearing a stola and a palla, holding the hem in her right hand, the garland formed from apples, pinecones and poppies, a large blossom above, the Cupids depicted nude, their wings raised and their heads turned out, an overturned fruit-filled urn, a snarling panther and a bow and quiver below each Cupid, a tree stump to the left supporting a bow and another to the right supporting a quiver, a winged Cupid at each corner, nude but for a diagonally-draped mantle, each holding a garland, a griffin on each side panel, an inscription in Greek epigram on the borders, but likely beginning on the now-missing lid, reading, [With my death I have left behind for my beloved parents], along the top, "as a compensation for their mourning and tears, my brother Semnos and the longed-for double offspring of my body. You want to know my name and that of my sweet parents," and along the bottom, "As daughter of [?] and of Trophimos, I, Semne, was born, just and honorable. Now my body denies me its service, but my mouth still knows how to speak as it did during my life"
    81½ in. (207 cm.) long


    Contact Client Service
    • info@christies.com

    • New York +1 212 636 2000

    • London +44 (0)20 7839 9060

    • Hong Kong +852 2760 1766

    • Shanghai +86 21 6355 1766

    According to Simon, (pp. 268-269 in The Kurashiki Ninagawa Museum, Greek, Etruscan and Roman Antiquities), "As in many tomb epigrams the deceased addresses the reader and gives her name and that of her parents. The epigram is the 'mouth' with which she speaks, while her body has become 'useless', as it reads literally. In the first part, on the upper border, she names the three people who are to help her parents to get over the premature death of their daughter: the brother Semnos and the pair of twins she had given birth to (in her words: 'the double offspring of the birth from my pelvis'). It is not said how old these twins are and it is possible that the young woman died soon after their birth. The thrice repeated quiver-and-bow motif on the frieze indicates the act of Artemis, the goddess of birth and death, who 'with gentle arrows' laid women low (cf. Homer, Odyssey 11, 173 and passim). The language of the epigram proves that Semne's family knew very well the Homeric conception of Artemis."

    Provenance

    with T. Fujita, 1970s.


    Pre-Lot Text

    PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE COLLECTION


    Literature

    E. Simon, "Römische Sarkophage in Japan" in Archäologischer Anzeiger, 1982, pp. 586ff.
    E. Simon, The Kurashiki Ninagawa Museum, Greek, Etruscan and Roman Antiquities, Mainz, 1982, no. 178.