About this object

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
To Claudia Qveitae, imperial slave (or freedowoman). She is buried here
To the right: TI CLAVD.Q.VIR
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 Engraving 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.

The ash chest was acquired by Henry Blundell from the collection of the Mattei family. 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.

Object specifics

  • Type
  • Culture
    Roman Imperial
  • Artist/Maker
  • Place made
    Europe: Southern Europe: Italy: Rome
  • Date made
    69 - 98 AD (Flavian)
  • 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
    270 mm x 550 mm x 290 mm
  • Note
    The ash chest compares well with the double ash chest with the inscription to Iulia Prisca in the Museum Nazionale Romano, 2nd century AD. However this may be a very late date as Claudia was an imperial slave under Claudius or Nero. It also compares well and is probably from the same workshop as the double ash chest in the Villa Rufolo in Ravello. ( Davies, 2007, p.52 ) Included in the inscription but not illustated in Monumenta Matthaeiana.
  • Related people
    Henry Blundell ( Collector, previous owner); Ciriaco Mattei ( Previous owner); Giuseppe Mattei ( Previous owner); Joseph William Weld ( Previous owner)

Explore related


  • Ancient Marbles in Great Britain

    Michaelis, A

    Author: Michaelis, A
    Publisher: Cambridge University Press
    Date: 1882

  • Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum

    Publisher: Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften

  • The Ince Blundell Collection of Classical Sculpture. Volume 2 - The Ash Chests and other Funerary Reliefs

    Davies, Glenys

    Author: Davies, Glenys
    Publisher: Verlag Philipp von Zabern
    Date: 2007


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
  • Ciriaco Mattei

    Owned from: Unknown or unrecorded
    How acquired: Unknown or unrecorded
    Owned until: 1614
    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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