Ash Chest



Double rectangular ash chest of Claudia Queita and Claudius Plolus. Although the inscription mentions two people, there is only one cavity in its interior. The decoration is on the front and the sides and extends onto the back at the corners. The side decoration is less finished than the one in the front. There are remains of metal clamps near the top centre at both sides: they have the shape of metal rods, three on the left and four on the right. The top edge of the chest is roughly shaped to hold a lid in place. The inscription is on two panels at the front. To the left: CLAVDIAE AVG QVEITAE HIC SITA EST [To Claudia Qveitae, imperial slave (or freedowoman). She is buried here.] To the right: TI CLAVD.Q.VIR PLOLO.FILE.O SITVS EST. [To Tiberius Claudius Plolus of the Quirina tribe, (her) son. He is buried (here)]. The names are very unusual; Queita is likely to be a mistake for Quieta and Plolus is an unusual name. if Claudia Queita was a slave then her son would not have been a freed man and able to enrol with the Quirina tribe, so Claudia was probably a freedwoman. The inscription was known from the 17th century and has been cited as part of the Mattei collection but also other locations as S.Maria de Cellis and S. Luigi dei Francesi. The lid it is shown with in the Engravings volume is the one associated with the ash chest of Rufrius Phlapfiphus and may not have belonged to the double ash chest. At the front corners of the chest are swans standing on bulbous columns and in the centre there is an eagle with spread wings. Between the swans and the eagle are slung two garlands of fruit and flowers. In the lunettes above both garlands are a pair of small birds catching grups or insects. Four small birds are below the garlands, two in the centre and one in each corner. Taeniae hang down from the garlands along the balusters and in the centre of the relief. The frames of the inscription panels have no decoration. The upper edges run along the top of the chest but between then and at the corners there is an upper moulding in the form of an undecorated wave. The lower moulding is a fascia divided into two by a horizontal groove. The side decoration is in low relief and looks unfinished. At the back corners there are Ammon heads and in the front corners swans. Above the garland on both sides there is a large bird with a long neck, probably a swan walking towards the front. A laurel garland hangs on the sides between the back corner Ammon heads and the front corner swans. Above the garland on both sides there is a large bird with a long neck probably a swan walking towards the front. The motifs used are common on the ash chests but the position of the large bird above the garland on the sides is unusual. Swans, Ammon heads and eagles were common in the second half of the first century AD. The fruit garlands are executed with a drill and another drill hole is in the wings of the birds where their bodies join. The details of the fruit and birds plummage are added with the chisel. The swan on balluster motif has been dated by Sinn in late 1st century AD. Purchased from the Villa Mattei Collection by Henry Blundell on his first trip to Italy in 1777. Two holes have been filled up, suggesting that at some stage the ash chest was used in a garden, possibly as part of a fountain.