About this object

Rectangular ash chest of M. Ulpius Eutyches, made up of the small Roman ash chest, a base and a lid, the latter two restorations of the 18th century, by Giovanni Battista Piranesi. The chest may have been originally only decorated at the front. The lid and the base are wider than the chest and were probably made in the 18th century to enhance what may have looked as a rather simple ash chest. The base has decorative mouldings on the front and its sides while the back of it is plain. The base stands on small rectangular feet. The lid has a rounded pediments at its front and back and a rounded upper surface corresponding to the profile of the pediments. The corners of the lid are acroteria.
There are three clamp holes on both sides of the chest and its back. They are small and oval and lower than those on other ash chests. The back hole is filled with metal and the sides with plaster. The lid has no corresponding holes and the upper edge of the chest is not shaped to hold the lid, but the underside has been shaped to fit the chest. The inner cavity has rounded corners and is roughly worked inside.
The inscription on the front of the chest is:
To the Shades:to Marcus Ulpius Eutyches.Marcus Ulpius/Philocalus (or Philocaius) made (this) for his well deserving brother.
The letters are large for the space and the inscription looks rather squashed. The letters are well formed but simple with no elaborate flourishes. The horizontal bars of some of the letters are rather short, for example in the eighth letter of Philocalus in the fourth line and it not therefore if it is an L and not an I. The final TI of EVTYCHETI in the second line is carved on the frame and it is difficult to see or to know whether the T is there and whether the word may just be EVTYCHEI. Davies (2007) commented she was unsure if the the inscription was ancient or not but if it was, then it belonged to a freedman of Emperor Trajan and decicated to the man by his brother.
The decoration in the front corners is of wingless cupids (putti, amorini) supporting a garland of fruit and flowers on their shoulders. They have their feet widely spaced and their body is braced against the weight of the garland. The arm on the corner is raised over the head and the forearm is on the side of the cupid's chest. Their heads turn away from the centre. The garland hangs below the inscription and the ribbons fill up the empty spaces between the heads of the cupids and the inscription panels and between their legs. From the end of the 1st century AD cupids began to be used for decorating sarcophagi and were extremely popular in the 2nd century AD. The frame of the inscription has a decorative leaf and dart moulding with an acantus leaf at the corners. This part of the decoration may have been carved in modern times.
The mouldings at the top and bottom of the chest are plan fasciae. On the sides of the ash chest there is decoration of an elaborate plant motif consisting of a kalyx from which a palmette and four tendrils rise: the tendrils are symmetrically arranged in a formal pattern and in four petalled rosettes.
The feet of the base have three rosettes on each of the external faces on the front and the sides. There is also a series of mouldings on the front and side faces. From top to bottom: a fascia decorated with a running dog motif; an astragal with bead decoration; a cyma reversa decorated with a leaf pattern; a broad area of vertical fluting. On the lid there is an egg and dart moulding underneath the lower edge and in the front pediment there is a wreath with fluttering taeniae (the back pediment is undecorated). The top surface of the lid is highly decorated in low relief, covering all the available space including the backs of the acroteria. A leaf and dart moulding runs all the away around the edge. In the centre there is a formal symmetrical and highly stylised motif of a rosette with leaves, tendrils and rosettes.

Object specifics

  • Type
  • Culture
    Roman Imperial
  • Artist/Maker
  • Place made
    Europe: Southern Europe: Italy: Rome
  • Date made
    130 AD - 40 AD (Hadrianic)
  • 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
    400 mm x 360 mm x 255 mm
  • Note
    Davies (2007). The restored base and lid are typical of the designs illustrated in Piranesi's Vasi, Candelabri etc and it may be on the ash chests created out of Piranesi's designs. Piranesi may have sold it directly to Henry Blundell. It is difficult to establish how much of further restoration happened to the ash chest so perhaps the inscription was added at that time and so was the decoration on its sides and the leaf design on the frame of the inscription panel. The illustration of the Monumenta Matthaeiana may be the same ash chest or could be an ash chest of a similar type.( the height of the ash chest is different, and the cupids do not stand exactly in the same way, the taeniae do not form the same patterns and the individual fruits in the garland bear little resemblance to those of the ash chest. Davies commented that some inaccuracies are commom in the Monumenta Matthaeiana and the style of the carving is seldom well expressed. The style of the cupids is of the one common in sarcophagi of the beginning of the 2nd century AD, the Hadrianic garland sarcophagi. The leaf and dart design of the frame of the inscription are a device favoured by Piranesi to make ash chest look more elaborate but it is often found in ash chests of a different date for example in an ash chest from Cambridge dedicated to M. Ulpius Aug. lib. Fortunatus and dated to Hadrianic times. The plant motif on the side does not fit that date, the design is convincing and floral designs were used on all sides of ash chests at a much earlier date. This decoration may have been an addition by Piranesi.
  • Related people
    Henry Blundell ( Collector, previous owner); Giuseppe Mattei ( Previous owner); Giovanni Battista Piranesi ( Previous owner); Joseph William Weld ( Previous owner)

Explore related


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    Publisher: Cambridge University Press
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  • Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum

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  • Enhancing by inscription in the late eighteenth century: the case of Henry Blundell's Ash Chests

    Davies, G

    Author: Davies, G
    Publisher: Institute of Classical Studies
    Date: 2000

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

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    Publisher: Verlag Philipp von Zabern
    Date: 2007


Previous owners

  • Joseph William Weld

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

    Owned from: 1789
    How acquired: Unknown or unrecorded
    Owned until: 1810
    Disposal method: Unknown or unrecorded
  • Giovanni Battista Piranesi

    Owned from: Unknown or unrecorded
    How acquired: Unknown or unrecorded
    Owned until: Unknown or unrecorded
    Disposal method: Unknown or unrecorded
  • Giovanni Battista Piranesi

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