About this object

Rectangular ash chest with decoration on its three sides and the back roughly worked. The insciption in the central panel is:
To the shades. Gaius Minicius Gelasinus placed this here for himself.
The inscription is well arranged in the panel with the letters in the last line smaller than those of the other lines. The N is wide, the E is very narrow and the G of a distinctive shape also seen in other inscriptions such as the Manlius Philargyrus.
On the front of the chest there are simple mouldings framing the inscription. Below it there are two naked cupids with their wings folded onto their backs, they face each other antagonistically crouching over to wrestle, their further arms raised and their hands meeting while the other arm is lowered. They look at each warily and the palm brach in between them is perhaps the prize for the winner. To the lower corners of the ash chest are two more cupids watching the match. They are also naked and have open wings. The one to the right stands with its feet together and his hands folded across his stomach, perhaps holding something in his hands but impossible to tell what that might be (perhaps a fan or a whisk). He stands in front of some objects which extend into the space beyond the inscription. There is a table with a low base but only its one leg is visible and it fluted and ending in a lion's foot. On the table there is a tall beardless herm at the corner of the front. It is the bust of a fairly mature man with long waving locks and wearing a fillet with hanging ribbons. In front of the herm on the table there is an elaborated decorated vessel with a single high handle looping above the rim and a second horizontal handle attached to the base of the neck (a decorative hydria?).The neck and the lower part of the vessel are fluted and they type of decoration suggests that it was probably made of metal. There is a large wreath between the herm and the inscription panel and it is floating in the air. The wreath is tied with bindings and is made of fruit rather than leaves and has ribbons fluttering into the space at the top right corner of the front. Behind the palm branches are two palm branches. The cupid to the left also watches the wrestlers and has one of his near arms raised to his face. There are two palm branches behind his hand but it is not clear if he is holding them or carrying them over his left shoulder. A fluted hydria or an amphora missing one of his two handles is behind the cupid and just above his head. More palm branches appear behind the rim of the vase and two more to the right.
The left hand side of the ash chest has a naked boy (with no wings) larger than the cupids. He has one hand raised to his head, holding a head gear byt some of the details are lost because of a crack and a damage to the face of the figure. His left hand is lowered and extended in front of him to support a long trumpet which he blows. His pose is three quarter one and he faces the front of the chest. In front of him there is a palm tree and behind him a herm on a low base and very similar to the herm at the front of the ash chest. Behind the herm there are large palm branches.
The right hand side of the chest has a palm tree close to the back corner. Branches emerge from the top of the tree and bunches of fruit hang at the junction of the trunk and the branches. In front of the tree there is four legged table, the front legs have animal feet and there is a cross rail. On the table there is a large amphora with a fluted body and neck and with tall elaborated curved handles. It is difficult to know what the other two objects on the table are, perhaps vessels or wreaths. They are irregular in shape and of a hollow centre, they could well be baskets or bowls or open bags.
All these objects such as the tables, vessels, wreath and palm branches are associated with competitions in palaestra. The trumpeter probably signals to the victor of the competition.

Object specifics

  • Type
  • Culture
    Roman Imperial
  • Artist/Maker
  • Place made
    Europe: Southern Europe: Italy: Rome
  • Date made
    2nd Century AD mid
  • Materials
  • Location
    Item not currently on display
  • Acquisition
    Gift of Col. Joseph W Weld, 1959
  • Collector
    Henry Blundell
  • Place collected
    Europe: Southern Europe: Italy: Rome
  • Date collected
  • Measurements
    250 mm x 400 mm x 260 mm
  • Note
    Close parallels to this scene: from the sarcophagus from the Antonine period in the Uffizi in Florence which uses the same wrestling scene. The vases may have been holding oil for the competition but the ornate nature of the vases in 59.148.335a suggest that there were more prizes for the competition and the object on the leaf hand side may have been money bags. Also another similar scene is in a fragment of a sarcophagi from the Louvre although the background there is plain and there is no indication of the context. Similarly in the lunette above of a garland from a sarcophagi from the Isola Sacra Semetery near Ostia. The competition takes place outdoors but in the companion scene of the lunette the cupids play with a large mask, a suggestion of the Dionysian context. Also the same scene on the side of a sarcophagi from the Museo Nationale Romano, the main theme cupids bringing in the grape harvest. The figures flanking the wrestling cupids have not got any precise comparables and they may be umpires or spectators or one of each. There are three more sarcophagi ( Palazzo Mattei, Villa Albani in Rome and in Berlin) where the wrestling cupids are in a Dionysiac context of playful fun rather than a serious competition such as in 59.148.335a.
  • Related people
    Henry Blundell ( Collector, previous owner); Giuseppe Mattei ( Previous owner); Joseph William Weld ( Previous owner)

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Previous owners

  • Joseph William Col Sir Weld

    Owned from: 1958
    How acquired: Unknown or unrecorded
    Owned until: 1959
    Disposal method: Unknown or unrecorded
  • Henry Blundell

    Owned from: Unknown or unrecorded
    How acquired: Unknown or unrecorded
    Owned until: 1810
    Disposal method: Unknown or unrecorded
  • Giuseppe Mattei

    Owned from: Unknown or unrecorded
    How acquired: Unknown or unrecorded
    Owned until: Unknown or unrecorded
    Disposal method: Unknown or unrecorded
Object view = Humanities
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