About this object

Rectangular ash chest, no inscription panel. The doors are flanked by laurel leaf trees, a garland hangs across the closed doors. There is a single berry near the centre of each leaf of the tree. Above the tree there is a rosette like a flower with a hollow centre, from which a garland emerges. The leaves of the garland are stylised laurel ones. Above the doors are two small garden birds fighting over a large insect, perhaps a grasshoper.
The back corners of the chest do not have the columns but a simple fascia moulding along the tops and bottom of the sides and along the top at the front. The lid has in the pediment decoration of an oak wreath with the taeniae spreading out to the corners of the pedimental space.The acroteria at the front corners have the form of the palmettes. Along the side of the lid there is a fascia moulding, divided by a single horizontal incised line. There are no acroteria at the back corners.
The upper parts of the chest were restored and it is not easy to identify the ancient parts. There may have been an inscription panel above the door. The combination of the door with the columns gives the ash chest the appearance of a miniature tomb while the tree on the sides may suggest a cemetery or a garden. The garland hanging above the door may have also derived from the actual decoration of the tombs. It is not certain why there is so much emphasis on the laurel and whether this is a connection to the god Apollo.
The relief is deep in the ancient parts and there is use of drilling. The restored parts match the original well but some of the motifs are not plausible: for example garlands do not emerge in ash chests from flowers and the type of insect is also not one used in Roman funerary chests. ( Roman examples of insects are much smaller and are most times butterflies or moths ).
The chest is decorated on its three sides, the back side is undecorated. There are no clamp holes and the top edges were not created to hold a lid, although the underside of the lid was shaped to fit onto the ash chest. The lid is of the roof shape with a low triangular pediment and acroteria at its front corners.
Ash chests of the design with corner columns and a door in the middle were particularly popular in the second half of the 1st century AD. The carving is of high quality and very elegant.

Object specifics

  • Type
  • Culture
    Roman Imperial
  • Artist/Maker
  • Place made
    Europe: Southern Europe: Italy
  • Date made
    50 AD - 70 AD
  • Materials
  • Location
    Item not currently on display
  • Acquisition
    Gift of Col. Joseph W Weld, 1959
  • Collector
    Henry Blundell
  • Place collected
  • Date collected
  • Measurements
    330 mm x 340 mm x 275 mm x 36 kg (chest); 11 kg (lid)
  • Note
    The chest has an unknown provenance and did not appear in the catalogue of the ones that originated in the Villa Mattei. Engr. 134,4. Similar to ash chest of Tita Hygia in Paris dates to the reign of Claudius in the door with the flanking trees or the ash chest of Manlia Parata in the Galleria Doria ( Claudian or early Neronian date). These two examples are possibly from the same workshop and this means the Ince example may also be from the same workshop.
  • Related people
    Henry Blundell ( Collector, 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

  • The Door Motif in Roman Funerary Sculpture

    Davies, G

    Author: Davies, G
    Publisher: British Archaeological Reports
    Date: 1978

  • 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
Object view = Humanities
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