>OUR PROJECTS > RESTORATION OF AN ANCIENT ROMAN SARCOPHAGUS WITH MARINE PROCESSION
RESTORATION OF AN ANCIENT ROMAN SARCOPHAGUS WITH MARINE PROCESSION
This sarcophagus dates back to the 2nd century and its frontal part is adorned with a group of marine gods and subjects. In the centre, Poseidon, the absolute sovereign of the oceans, emerges from the sea’s wild waves with his chariot, dominating the scene. On his side Tristons, Nereids and “pistrici” (in Greek mythology the pistrici were mosters. The lower part of their bodies resempled a snake). On the extreme left, Poseidon’s wife appears, Amphitrite – recognizable from the veil on her head and from the typical hand gesture. Numerous exuberant Erotes are depicted while ﬂying through the sea foam, talking with the Nereids or playing with the dolphins; animating almost the entire scene that is occupied by an embossed decoration.
The beloved marine subject, although simpliﬁed, can be found once again on both short sides of the sarcophagus, where a sea griffon is held by the reins by a young Erote who is standing on its saddle. In some way, the messengers of Aphrodite, the goddess of love, manage to domesticate even the most majestic sea monsters. The theme of the group of marine gods and subjects is quite frequent in the decorations of sarcophagi from the 2nd century AD. Due to stylistic reasons, our sample can be dated towards the last decades of the 2nd century.
State of Preservation:
The sarcophagus is obviously in a very fragile preservative condition, but it is a very important piece. Its origin is unknown, but certain drawings of the 16th century, which faithfully depict only the front, provide documentary evidence that it is in Rome – precisely in Ara Coeli. In the 18th century, it was part of the Lancellotti collection and seems to have reached the Vatican between 1834 and 1842. The restoration of this piece is very urgent. The marble surface is highly compromised as a result of its outdoors exposure and of its past restoration intervention that was carried out in the past century, and shows worrying signs of structural failure.
Restoration Process Includes:
- Scientiﬁc analysis and study of the preservation of the marble
- Overall cleaning
- Overview of old restoration and removal
- Replacement of iron and rusted nails and "grappe" with new stainless steel support and carbon ﬁber implements
- Photographic documentation of the state of preservation
Date: Second half of the 2nd century BC
Dimensions: 218 x 61 x 67 cm
Materials: White marble with visible crystals and grey veining
The Italian & International Patrons of the Arts in the Vatican Museums wish to thank David and Claudia Newren (Mexico) for their generosity!