Ash Chest



Rectangular ash chest of Livia, acquired from the Mattei collection and possibly exported from Lisandroni and d'Este in 1789. The chest is illustrated in the Monumenta Matthaeiana although the drawing does not show the pilasters at the corners. The inscription appears in two different monuments in the Monumenta and this raises suspicions about whether it is ancient. There are a few cracked areas at the left side and the botton of the ash chest and several holes drilled onto the fabric, the interior cavity is stained because it may have been used in the garden or as a fountain setting. The chest is decorated on all four sides and stands on plain feet which are very worn. The interior cavity is smoothly finished but the top edge was not shaped to hold a lid. The top centre of both sides has rectangular clamp holes. The inscription takes up most of the field: D M LIVIAE.P.F P.LIVIVS. FORTVNATVS LIBERTAE To the shades of Livia, daughter of Publicus, Publius Livius Fortunatus to his freedwoman. The letters are well arranged and elegantly inscribed but the use of the P.F. formula is not common for a freedwoman (she should not be described as filia because the term was used for women who were born free). If the inscription is ancient it could be that the particular way she is described aimed to emphasise that she was born while her mother was a slave and made a freedwoman by her father. The clarity and the eveness of the inscription also raise suspicions about its ancient status. The inscription has a frame of a plain fascia below with a wave reverse upper moulding and pilasters in low relief, the capitals and bases only just about visible. The same mouldings and pilasters are used on the sides and back of the chest but the fields are left undecorated. The ash chest is dated in early Imperial times, perhaps Tiberian because of the decoration on all its sides and the low feet.