A ROMAN MARBLE SARCOPHAGUS FRAGMENT
THE PROPERTY OF THE CARR FOUNDATION
A ROMAN MARBLE SARCOPHAGUS FRAGMENT

CIRCA LATE 2ND-3RD CENTURY A.D.

Details
A ROMAN MARBLE SARCOPHAGUS FRAGMENT
CIRCA LATE 2ND-3RD CENTURY A.D.
Depicting the death of Clytaemnestra at the hand of her son Orestes, the deceased lying in the left foreground, her head thrown back, her breasts revealed from her final attempt for mercy, the nurse-maid Gelissa standing behind looking down at the corpse, her arms extended out, a servant boy kneeling to the right, holding a tray above his head tilted forward, Clotho, one of the three Fates, standing behind at the far right, identified by the spindle in her right hand, personifying the tragedy of the event (the other Fates would have presumably been depicted further to the right), with a billowing cloth behind the scene as a back-drop, the upper portion of two Furies in the background in pursuit of Orestes for committing matricide, the Fury to the left with a coiled snake on her raised arm; with four bands of ornament above, including bead-and-reel, egg-and-dart, cymatium, and elaborate meander framing rosettes
29 7/8 in. (75.9 cm.) high
Provenance
Anonymous sale; Christie's, New York, 7 December 2000, lot 614.

Lot Essay

Clytaemnestra, the wife of Agamemnon, spent the ten years of the Trojan war plotting the murder of her husband as revenge for his sacrificing their daughter Iphigenia. When Agamemnon returned home to Mycenae with his concubine Cassandra, Clytaemnestra and her lover Aegisthus brutally murdered the couple. Vowing to avenge his father's death, Agamemnon and Clytaemnestra's son Orestes, who had been raised in Phocis, returned to Mycenae with the counsel of the Oracle at Delphi and murdered his mother and her lover. According to Aeschylus (Libation-Bearers, 895), Clytaemnestra begged her son to spare her life, "Wait son! Have pity, child, upon this breast, which you held, drowsing away the hours, sucking, with toothless gums, the milk that nourished you. . . .I gave you life. Let me grow old with you."
For additional depictions of the death of Clytaemnestra see nos. 9ff in Morizot, "Klytaimestra" in LIMC, vol. VI.
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