About this object

Rectangular ash chest. It's provenance is unknown but it was exported by Lisandroni and d'Este in 1789. It was not included in Monumenta Matthaeiana and in the Engravings the chest appeared in its restored state.
The chest stands on four feet and is decorated on three sides,the back is undecorated but worked smoothly and so is the interior. There are clamp holes in the centre at the top moulding on both sides in the four of small holes still containing lead. The upper edge of the chest was not shaped to hold a lid.
The inscription is:
D(is) Ma (nibus )./Have Euphrosyne/et vale. Aemilia Cantria/filiae dulcissimae/posuit infellx
To the Shades, Hail Euphrosyne and farewell. Aemilia Cantria in her misfortune put this up to her sweetest daughter.
The inscription is modern and was probably copied from somewhere; have et vale is not a common phrase for ash chests and posuit infelix is also unattested.
The front is covered with rams' heads at the upper corners. The heads support a laurel garland suspended from the horns. Above the garland is a large insect moth with spread wings and above it the inscription. Below the garland in each of the lower corners is a small bird facing towars the corner but with its head turned back to peck at the garland. Elaborate ribbons flutter below the rams' heads and also appear at the corner front edges on the sides with ribbons (taenia) fluttering below. In the main field of the sides there is a large palmette on a smooth background. The moulding is plain at the bottom and top of the front and the sides and down the back edge of the side panels.

All the motifs are common for ash chests apart from that of the moth. Blundell commented on the modern moth and described it as the symbol of the human soul. The rams' head have detailed modelling and long thin muzzles and curly hair at the top. Their eyes are fully modelled but their pupils are not marked. The horns curve around the ears and are ridged. The garland's leaves are diamond shaped and point toward the centre: each leaf has a berry on a thin stalk and hovers above the middle of the leaf. The leaves are in a high relief and perhaps unrealistic despite the detailed modelling. The central rib has a wavy outline. There is some drilling used but it is not that noticeable. The twisted taenia is also in high relief with a single bobble at the end and horizontal ribbing. The birds are well proportioned with long tails and are also in a lot of detailed modelling. Chisel was used to indicate the feathers and drill was also used for part of the outline. The moth fits the design but is very different to the ones found in Roman ash chests. The palmettes on the sides have nine fronds rising from a large triangular base and are neatly carved but not that elegant. The general design is of good quality and detailed craftmanship but there is little originality. The sculptor used the running drill but limited its use.
The ancient parts are creamy marble, the modern parts lighter and more grey. A substantial part of the front is restored , the chest was broked in a curve following the line of the garland. Modern parts are half of the rams' heads, the garland cuffs, the first row of leaves on the left side, the entire edge on the front, the inscription panel and the butterfly moth. The modern part was held together by iron pins that can be seen on the right hand side of the corner where the stone chipped away and are also visible in the other corner. There is also a crack at the left hand side of the front and also on the left hand side of the ash chest.

Object specifics

  • Type
  • Culture
  • Artist/Maker
  • Place made
    Europe: Southern Europe: Italy: Rome
  • Date made
    1st Century mid - 1st Century AD late
  • 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
    290 mm x 345 mm x 345 mm
  • Note
    Davies (2007) dated in mid to late 1st century AD because of the common details such as rams' head and laurel but the reluctance for drilling suggest an early date Blundell's account does not recognise the substantial restorations and is shown with the lid no 70 from the Mattei colllection but unlikely to be the original lid of this chest. Davies compared it to published chest by Sinn, in Museo Nationale Romano dated in Claudian Neronian era.
  • Related people
    Henry Blundell ( Collector, previous owner); Antonio d'Este ( Previous owner); Ferdinando Lisandroni ( 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
  • Ferdinando Lisandroni

    Owned from: Unknown or unrecorded
    How acquired: Unknown or unrecorded
    Owned until: 1789
    Disposal method: Unknown or unrecorded
  • Antonio d'Este

    Owned from: Unknown or unrecorded
    How acquired: Unknown or unrecorded
    Owned until: 1789
    Disposal method: Unknown or unrecorded
Object view = Humanities
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