Ash Chest



Large circular ash chest with an inscription panel surrounded by decorative motifs. The rest of the spaces at the front and the sides are decorated with strigilations (S-Shaped fluting). The top edge is not shaped to hold a lid but the two holes surviving at the top may have held pins for this purpose. The interior cavity is smoothly worked. The inscription is: D.M ANTONIAE GEMELLAE DIADVMENVS PIENTISSIMAE FECIT VIXIT.ANNIS. XXXIII To the Shades. Diadumenus made this for Antonia Gemella, most dutiful, who lived 33 years. A strange feature of the inscription is the fact that there is not a noun to go with pientissimae (most common noun used for that would be coniugi or a word desribing the relationship with the dedicator). It is therefore uncertain if Antoniae was the wife, the mistress or the a patron of the dedicator. Diadumenus is given only one name which may suggest that he was a slave to Antonia and she may have been a freedwoman. The insription is flanked by dolphins with their nose down and with water underneath them. A fruit garland is suspended between the dolphins' tails and hangs down beneath the inscription panel with no space for any addtional motifs. Below the garland in the space between it and the moulding at the bottom of the urn are a series of short flutes with rounded ends and the fluting is visible on the back of the chest. Below the dolphins is the strigilitated fluting and it covers the back fo the ash chest. At the bottom of the ash chest there is moulding decorated with a complex leaf design. The strigilated fluting was adopted from fluting in sarcophagi as is the garland and the style of it was common from the 2nd century AD. The drill is used in the garland as drilled holes rather than a continuous channel (running drill). The details of the fruit were rendered with the chisel. Because fluting is also at the back of the ash chest it is possible that the chest was made some point after sarcophagoi had become the alternative to ash chests, towards the 2nd century AD. Similar ash chests date from the Hadrianic and generally Antonine period. The ash chest may have been enhanced with 18th century additions and restorations such as the inscription and the lid. It exact provenance is unknown and was probably exported from Rome by d'Este, the famous dealer and collector. The ash chest was not included in the Monumenta Mattheiana. The ash chest is in a poor condition.